Fighting Psychological Hunger

I am the girl the waiter sarcastically makes comments to like “wow you really hated it, huh.”  I’m the girl that will order a “healthy salad” and then become a human garbage disposal for any meal left unfinished at the table.  My own ITALIAN grandmother has told me I should really stop eating or I’ll feel ill (not lying).  What can I say.  Your girl can eat

But, even GRANDMA?  The woman that gets teary eyed any time I turn down food at any given moment, even after we just got finished with a 4-course meal?

That is when I knew I had to reevaluate this emotion I was confusing for hunger.  Was I really hungry still?  Maybe I just wasn't satisfied with the foods I was eating?  Or, too satisfied?  I can’t be bored, there are 15 people at the dinner table yelling over each other competing for a spot in 3 different conversations.   Hmm…stress eating?  Possible.

There are so many different explanations as to why you may over-eat even though you’re not truly, physically hungry.   If you are working toward a goal and feel this problem is setting you back, don’t worry.  This can be solved in two simple steps.

1.     Reflect

2.     Deflect

The number one way to fix this is to reflect on your feelings first!  Think about what you are feeling.  Symptoms of physical hunger are a feeling of emptiness in your stomach, stomach grumbling, lightheaded/headache, irritability, or lack of concentration.  

Once you have recognized your symptoms, think about when and what you ate last.   Was it well-balanced, enough food, did it “hit the spot”?  Most importantly, did you hydrate?!  If you didn't feel hungry until you saw the mouth-watering slice of meat lovers pie while shopping in the mall...this would be a great time to reflect.

On to step 2-Deflect.  Take a break.  Go for a walk, drink water or black coffee/tea, do some laundry, read my blog-what ever you can do to give your body some time to interpret satiety-the state of feeling satisfied or full.

Once you have figured out you are, like the rest of us, a victim of psychological hunger, you’re probably wondering how you can prevent this deceiving emotion?? 

DRINK water or calorie-free drinks (coffee/tea)- a glass before meals and frequently through out your day.  A lot of times our bodies confuse the feeling of thirst for hunger!

TRACK your meals!  Make sure each meal is well balanced.  Incorporate appropriate ratio of lean proteins, complex carbs, and healthy fats in each meal. 

  •  Healthy protein choices include fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, legumes, beans, tofu, and non-fat      dairy products.  These will aid in slowing digestion and keeping you feeling full longer.
  • Good carb choices are those that are whole, unrefined, and high in fiber.  Whole wheat, oatmeal, quinoa, chia seeds, certain fruits and veggies are all good choices.  Whole and unrefined carbs are more easily digested and prevent insulin spikes like other carb sources, and fiber is great for trafficking water in to the intestine, stretching your stomach to feel full faster.
  • Healthy fat sources include avocados, nuts, flaxseed, salmon, almond butter, and egg yolks.  Adding healthy fats to your meals will help you to feel full longer because, like protein, they take longer to digest and will stay in your stomach longer.

SLOW down!  Enjoy your meal.  Cut and chew each bite.   Take your time, your body needs it as it takes a lot of work to digest your food and send signals to your brain, stomach, hormones, etc!

SLEEP/DESTRESS/DISTRACT-  Do a workout, make a to-do list, accomplish a task, drink plenty of water, brush your teeth after dinner, shut off all electronics and lights with a scheduled bed time, use white noise to sleep.  Adequate sleep (7-9 hours) is necessary, as it plays a major role in your metabolism and brain function, which helps you make better choices and not opt for high carb/sugary/greasy foods.

Being able to decipher between physical and emotional hunger is a great start to breaking the habit of psychological eating.  By focusing on well-balanced meals, hydrating with calorie-free drinks, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle limiting stress and optimizing sleep-you can stop the madness!!  Try these thought process steps next time you find yourself thinking you're hungry at an odd time for your normal meal schedule!