First I would like to say hello to everyone, I have been following many wellness blogs and have fallen in love with this world of experts sharing their opinions, thoughts and advice and felt like this might be the time for me to jump right on in!
This week HUNGER has been on my mind. Everyday I see people making changes in their eating habits, some are as happy as can be and others are miserable. The most common difference usually boils down to hunger.
When I speak of hunger to my clients, it has become this evil monster under the bed that we are never supposed to see or experience. Yet it keeps us up all night worrying. My first question is since when did hunger get this reputation of being “bad”?
I am currently participating in a “hunger challenge” with my clients in my wellness group. The physician I work with and myself are determined to help our clients change their perspective on hunger. (See how I did not say “make hunger go away”, that is impossible to do.) However the way we view our hunger can be the key to not overeating. Interested in the “hunger challenge”, join me following 3 steps.
Step 1: “Hunger is not bad”
Hunger should be the cue that you did not overeat. That should be a cause for celebration! The way I explained it to my clients is “if I eat my breakfast this morning, and get to my lunch, 4 hours later, with not one hunger cue, than guess what… I probably ate too much food for breakfast”. I want to have that little growling, rumbling feeling in my stomach about 15-20 minutes before my next meal. I am not asking you to be starving, but to experience hunger. And if each time your belly grumbles a little bit right before a meal, I ask my clients and now you, to have a mini celebration. If you can change your mindset around hunger, and “celebrate it”, that will be your first victory in not overeating!
Step 2: Head hunger versus physical hunger
Many clients and myself are challenged by identifying which type of hunger we are experiencing. Most of the time for me, my hunger is head hunger. I may not have acknowledged it in that moment, but head hunger occurs when I am bored, alone or stressed. For you, it might be something else triggering this such as sadness, celebration, depression etc. There is a whole laundry list of why we eat, that does not typically included physical hunger. Physical hunger comes from your belly! Everyone describes it differently, but it is that empty feeling in your stomach usually with some growling or rumbling of some sort. Many of us snack so much during the day, that we never end up feeling physical hunger and often forget what that feeling is like. So next time you eat, ask yourself, “where is my hunger coming from?”
Step 3: The Hunger Scale and No Snack Challenge
In our wellness group we have developed an exercise for patients to do for 2-4 weeks to help “retrain” their hunger. The hunger scale is system of rating hunger before and after a meal from 0-3. Our goal is for our clients to end up at the end of the exercise with mostly 0-1s. We often have patients keep this scale and remove snacks from their day while doing so. This is known in our group as the “No Snack Challenge”. The no snack challenge is the removal of all unplanned/unnecessary food we add to our day.
|Before a Meal||After a Meal|
|0 = Very hungry, a little growling of the stomach||0= Still a little hungry, but satisfied|
|1 = Not hungry yet – but not full||1 = full but not over-ful|
|2 = Still partially full||2 = feeling like you ate too much|
|3 = Very full, don’t want to eat||3 = Thanksgiving full, ate way too much|
Clients are always skeptical of this exercise when they first start. One client stood out in particular, he fought and fought us on this concept because he felt he needed to have snacks and food all day long in order to do his job well. Sound familiar? Finally one week he gave in and went for it. He decided he would update the group via email so we could experience his “pain” right along side him as he took on the “Hunger Scale and No Snack Challenge”.
The first weeks’ emails you would have thought we put him on 10 calories per day. He described this phase as “unbearable”, but knew a little hunger would not kill him. He said to the group “I trust you and know this will get better” and he kept on going with the exercise. Second week the client said “I noticed the hunger was there and it often felt like it was there all day long. However the “pain” was gone”. By the third week we could see this client was on a new path to hunger control. He was excited to share “I no longer feel I need my snacks, I get slightly hungry prior to meals and I am satisfied after my meals without being Thanksgiving full”. Once this happened for this client he was cruising with his lifestyle changes and lost 20 pounds the last 6 weeks of group. His negative thinking around hunger and dependence on his snacks is what was holding back all this time.
From one small change, look at what he did for his weight loss and health. This experience meant so much to him he comes back to all our wellness groups to share how this has helped change his lifestyle, and helps him keep his weight off!
Up for the challenge?
I challenge you this week in preparation of holiday time to think about retraining your hunger and your mindset that “hunger is ok”! My experience with challenge thus far has been, that I got caught in a trap of “oh I am dietitian and I eat healthy snacks, so no worries here!” WRONG! I am day 3 into The Hunger Scale and No Snack Challenge. What I noticed about myself was I was snacking a whole lot more than I realized. From the cashews in my desk drawer, to the 2-3 pieces of fruit I brought with my lunch and a string cheese or protein bar in the afternoon, I easily was consuming 500+ extra calories per day. Healthy calories mind you, but still extra calories. The last lesson I am learning from the challenge is if you go back to old habits like I did of over snacking, you are starting from ground zero. I have the “hunger pains” all over again, and I am re-creating my relationship with my hunger.
I will keep posted on how the challenge is going for me, and hope you let me and others know how you have been doing as well!