Eating Only When Hungry May Help Manage Blood Sugar, Weight

By Marsha Hudnall on 09/20/2010
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It's nice to see studies that confirm what you believe.  Especially when the belief is based on experience — we've seen it work over and over again at Green Mountain.  It's a key element of our healthy weight loss program and the various tracks we offer to help with problems like type 2 diabetes, pco, binge eating and more.

"It" is the benefit of listening to our bodies to determine when we need food.  We call it mindful eating.  Others call it intuitive eating or attuned eating.  There are more facets to mindful eating than just listening for hunger, but that's one of its primary strategies.

Recent research out of Italy suggests this technique supports the self-regulation of food intake, as opposed to relying on external controls which don't work so well.  Translated, that means using internal cues like hunger to help us eat in concert with our needs works better than something like dieting, which we know doesn't work for many, many people.  (For the record, we're talking about eating in response to hunger the majority of the time.  There's no need to be perfect; sometimes we do eat for good reasons that don't involve hunger.)

And here's what the study showed about the benefits of self-regulation:  People who were trained to use feelings of initial hunger to determine when to eat, and began to eat that way, experienced significant improvements in insulin sensitivity, blood sugar control, Hgb A1C (a measure of blood glucose control), calorie intake and body weight.

The researchers concluded, "These findings, together with those of an associated study on weight, suggest that the current epidemic of insulin resistance and overweight may have its origin in noncognizance of hunger."  They go on to say, "By restoring and validating hunger, the IHMP [initial hunger meal pattern -- their term for eating when hungry] could help in the prevention and treatment of diabetes and obesity and associated disorders. This could lessen the high economic burden of health services in industrialised societies."

We couldn't agree more.  Dieting trains us to ignore hunger cues, and sets us up for being vulnerable to outside forcesSuch as the food environment we have in the U.S., which is spreading worldwide.  When we listen to our bodies to guide us in eating, we're not at the mercy of the smell of cinnamon buns as we walk through the mall, or the bag of chips in our pantry, or whatever food cue we think is our trigger.

For those of us who have been dieting for years, or living with the misguided notion that healthy eating is based on diet rules, it can be scary to trust our bodies.   The road back to body trust can be an obstacle course of sort for some of us,  due to problems like emotional eating or physical issues that may distort our internal cues, such as food sensitivities and problems like pcos or type 2 diabetes.  But as this study suggests, it's so worth the effort.  We'd even say learning to listen and respond intelligently to our bodies is one of the first steps on that road, one that forms the foundation for success in overcoming other elements at play.

Have you had ups and downs in learning to trust your body to guide your eating?

Photo by raatcc36 via stock.xchng

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