Committing to a habit of eating only when hungry can be a tricky one. Giving up snacking can be tough, and because virtually all our social activities revolve around food it can be challenging to resist mindless snacking, even when we’re full.
To assist you on your journey, today we’re going to share just a few of the many benefits of only eating when you’re hungry. These payoffs are more than worth the challenge of adopting a new habit!
Hunger is Healthy
We often try to shy away from experiences that cause us discomfort, things like intense physical activities, extreme temperatures, or yes, hunger.
The Huffington Post explains, “[h]unger has a very negative connotation in our society. Our immediate reaction to the word is that it’s a bad thing, something to be eradicated and fixed. Of course, when we’re using the word ‘hunger’ to describe the issue of food insecurity, we are indeed describing a problem. However, when there’s plenty of food available to eat, hunger is actually a lovely part of the overall eating experience. To put it simply, food tastes better when you’re hungry.”
While it might not be a common feeling for most of us, allowing yourself to feel truly hungry before eating can serve to truly enhance your eating experience.
Hunger Can Help You Look (and Feel) Young
Nutrition consultant Mary Vance explains that the experience of being hungry may help to boost growth hormones and increase our youthful appearance.
“Human growth hormone is naturally produced in the pituitary gland and plays a vital role in cell regeneration, growth, and maintaining healthy human tissue, including that of the brain and various vital organs,” she says. “It also decreases body fat, and because it stimulates cellular regeneration, it keeps you from getting wrinkles! When you’re hungry and your stomach is empty, your body produces the hormone ghrelin to tell you it’s time to eat.”
Ghrelin can boost your growth hormones, and may also improve memory and learning function, so causing its production with a little hunger now and then can be a great thing.
There’s a vast difference between only eating when you’re hungry and starving yourself so that you feel hungry all the time. The former is a healthy habit, the latter is an eating disorder.
Nonetheless, even while eating regularly, weight loss often occurs when you begin truly listening to your body and only eating when you’re actually hungry. By doing so, you’ll inevitably decrease your total calorie count and weight loss may occur as a result.
Please note, however, that this habit is about eating only when you’re hungry – not avoiding eating altogether. Temporary hunger in between meals is ok, starving yourself is not. Take care of yourself!
Get to Know Your Body Better
Psych Central explains that allowing yourself to feel hunger before eating something means that you can get to know the natural patterns of your body.
They ask, “[h]ave you had the experience of thinking you were hungry at noontime only to become absorbed in a project or in a book, and have several hours pass before you think about food again? True hunger cannot wait a few hours. It demands to be fed. You were not hungry at noon but were responding to a time of day stimulus, another reason you’ve given yourself to eat. If you distract yourself with some other activity, the urge usually passes within a few minutes. Try to differentiate between your hungers and your urges.”
Rather than mindlessly following your body’s urges and cravings, we invite you to really examine them. Sit briefly with your hunger, experience the feeling, and tune in to how your body feels.
Like all good things, this habit may take some effort initially as you adjust your eating habits and get used to running mental self-assessments of your hunger levels, but this sort of mindful eating will soon become second nature. With these benefits under your belt, the practice of only eating when you’re hungry will quickly become a healthy habit and a regular part of your life. You can do this!