Mindful Eating Strategies to End Eating and Weight Struggles



When Are We Really Hungry for Food?

What’s a first step in mindful eating (also called intuitive eating)? Getting in touch with feelings of true physical hunger. Sounds simple, but at first it may be hard. That’s because either due to dieting or chaotic patterns of eating, people often ignore physical hunger cues or eat when they are not physically hungry at all.

Then they often end up confused about when they are truly hungry for food. Just following this one principle of mindful eating, however, would very likely improve the way most people eat.

Mastering Mindful Eating – Intuitive Eating

The most logical place to start getting back in touch with physical hunger cues is to establish some structure for the timing and balance of meals. This is especially true for someone dealing with emotional or binge eating — a solid structure that supports nutritional health starts to put our bodies back into balance so that our appetite regulatory system can begin to work the way it was intended.

  • Ideally, start by eating within the first few hours of waking, then every 3 to 5 hours from that point on. Ensure that most meals/snacks contain grains/starchy vegetables, protein foods and fruits/vegetables.
  • Next, experiment with separating “mouth hunger” (emotional and spiritual hungers) from “stomach hunger” (physical hunger). If you think you may be hungry but aren’t sure, wait a while. It will become clear.
  • Physical hunger becomes more intense with time. Emotional or spiritual desires that you experience as hunger generally do not intensify over time.

Working with a hunger and satiety scale can help increase your awareness of physical hunger and satisfaction. Rating your level of hunger or satisfaction with a number helps you to stop and consider what is actually going on in your body.

Hunger Scale Used in Mindful Eating or Intuitive Eating

HungerGauge

  1. Ravenous, may have a headache or feel nauseous
  2. Overly hungry, may be preoccupied with hunger and pangs may be VERY uncomfortable
  3. Urge to eat is strong, stomach growls, can sense pangs/gnawing sensation; may even notice a slight pressure in the back of the throat
  4. A little hungry, feeling empty or hollow in the stomach, perhaps noticing your thoughts drifting to food
  5. Neutral, no longer experiencing pangs, but not feeling full or satisfied; at this stage you would not sense food in the stomach
  6. Able to feel the weight of food in the stomach, and notice the feeling of the stomach stretching slightly as a result of eating
  7. Hunger is gone; rate of eating slows; experiencing a sense of well being from having had enough to eat
  8. Not uncomfortable, but definitely full; taste, texture, appearance of the food may not stand out very much at this point. You may notice yourself eating without paying attention to the food
  9. Uncomfortable, noticing a significant stretch to the stomach, perhaps noticing difficulty breathing due to physical stretch, would be uncomfortable with light activity (walking) after eating
  10. Painfully full, “couldn’t take another bite,” activity is out of the question.

How Mindful Eating Supports Your Natural Weight 

If you consistently eat without listening for hunger and satisfaction cues, you may very well end up overeating, given the many opportunities to eat most of us face daily.

Take a moment to reflect on your typical hunger and satiety range, without judging.

  • What number are you at when you sit down for most meals and snacks?
  • How do you rate at the end of most meals and snacks?
  • Ideally, we begin to eat when at a 3 or a 4, when it’s clear our bodies need  food.
  • Most of us feel most comfortable when we stop around 7 or 8.

Consider when your range of hunger and satisfaction is“off.”

  • Do you often get overly hungry (1’s and 2’s)? When? Why?
  • Do you eat until stuffed and uncomfortable at times? When? Why?
  • Do you eat when not yet hungry? What triggers this?
  • Practice eating within a range that feels right to you. What changes when you do?

Internal cues for starting and stopping eating are something we’re born with but often lose touch with. By tuning into our bodies’ physical hunger and satisfaction cues, we can begin to return to ‘normal’ eating, which is really what mindful eating is all about.

In the end, our internal cues intuitively support the weight that’s right for you.

Find Peace with Food and Your Weight with Mindful Eating or Intuitive Eating 

Let our 44 years of working with women who struggle with weight help you achieve the life you want. Green Mountain is for the woman serious about getting healthy and feeling good again.


3 responses to “Mindful Eating Strategies to End Eating and Weight Struggles”

  1. […] Practice mindful or intuitive eating. This involves giving up the “shoulds and shouldn’ts” and starting to heed your […]

  2. lucila says:

    hi

    i quit smoking almost 2 years ago i cant stop eating in the middle of night i know i am eating i eat great during the day i workout then i eat crappy food before bed then i get up feeling horrible i feel bloated and i am soooooo upset at myself!!! is there any books or anything out there i go to therapy but my therapist is saying is a bad habit i took up after smoking any suggestions?

    • Shiri Macri says:

      Hi Lucila,
      When I hear someone say “I eat great during the day” I wonder if “great” actually means restrictive. In other words, if you’re not getting enough during the day, it would make sense to make up for that at night. Here’s a blog that may help: https://www.fitwoman.com/blog/night-eating-syndrome/
      But also consider balancing your food consumption – make sure you’re getting enough and make sure you’re taking in all he nutrients the body requires – vegetables/fruit, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, etc.
      I hope this helps in the meantime. Take Care,
      Shiri

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