Grazing is for Animals: Battling the Hunger Demon, Tip #5

There are a few keys to dealing with hunger. Here is another challenge you’ll face and some strategies to deal with it. Look for the last tip on Thursday.

Are you actually hungry? Or are you just grazing like these Pygmy elephants I was so lucky to see in Borneo?

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How often do you find yourself thinking you’re hungry, but if you stopped to consider, would realize you’re not actually hungry? This is what I think of as ‘emotional grazing’. Are you looking for a distraction because you’re bored, agitated, feeling down, or wired?

It seems like losing weight is only about 10 percent physical and 90 percent psychological. Too often food addicts approach eating in extremes: overthinking or not thinking at all about what we’re eating. All those times I lost some weight, only to regain it, was the result of not dealing with the underlying psychological issues. Instead of weight loss being about just shedding pounds, it’s much more about all those conscious and unconscious things going on in our heads that influences our actions.

As soon as possible, ask yourself “Am I actually hungry?”.
This is an essential strategy to develop to change your lifestyle. I regularly found myself  opening the fridge or cupboard doors (and sometimes still do!) between planned meals and snacks, thinking “I’m so hungry!” But after some reflection, I realized that wasn’t accurate.

No, I’m really not that hungry.
Most often when I have to ask myself this question, I find the answer is ‘no’. I ask myself “Why do I want to eat?”. This strategy helps me to consciously acknowledge that I’m in search of a distraction. Then I ask myself “Do I really want to eat?”, remind myself of what I’m having for my next meal, and question whether I want this to be my snack. If it’s after I had my last snack for the day, I ask myself “Do I really need to eat another snack?” More often than not, the answer is no.

Awareness
This strategy is useful for two reasons. First, even if I do end up eating when I’m not hungry, I am conditioning myself to be more aware of what’s driving me towards food. I think this is why I rarely end up eating when I stop to ask myself if I’m actually hungry. This process helped me to consider what’s driving me to eat. Sometimes I couldn’t pinpoint why I felt the urge even though I wasn’t hungry, but over time, I became more aware of reasons that triggered me to emotionally graze and find ways to divert myself.

Choices
Second, rather than a strict moratorium on food between planned eating times, you’re giving yourself a choice. If you decide you still want to eat, you’ve consciously made this decision and at least recognize that you’re not hungry at that time. Feeling like you have a choice offers more autonomy over making these decisions. Instead of feeling deprived and trapped by your commitment to change your lifestyle, you’ll be reminded that you have chosen to eat less. Remember, this is a process. It will take time to recondition the bad habits you’ve developed to not only lose, but maintain a healthier weight.

Yes, I really am hungry.
When the answer is “yes”, and you are in fact hungry, consider when you last ate and what you had. This tactic helps you get a better sense of what you find filling or not, which will allow you to better plan your meals. If you love spaghetti, but regularly find that you’re hungry an hour later, maybe you didn’t eat enough vegetables, protein, or fat with it. Maybe you need to readjust your eating times because you’re waiting too long between meals and snacks. Sometimes it’ll just be because you’ve reduced your caloric intake and you’re body is retaliating. Try to think of this as a “Congratulations, you’re doing a good job of eating less”, rather than “EGAD! I’m going to starve to death and can’t do this anymore!”

Keep the End Goal in Mind
If you choose to eat, decide what you will have, portion it out, and try to take your time eating it. If you have an extra 150 calories for the day, it’s not going to ruin your lifestyle change plan. It will set you back 150 calories, but consider the bigger picture. If you were eating 3,500 calories a day, and you’ve cut back 1,500, you’d still be eating 1,350 calories less than you did before you began. It’s so very important to keep this in mind to avoid falling back into the trap of “Well, I’m cheating anyway, so I might as well just finish the bag”, or, “I’m fat anyway, so what does it matter if eat another brownie?” This is exactly the kind of thinking that puts you right back where you were.

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