DAY # 2
RATING YOUR HUNGER.
Today we are going to start to cultivate an important mindful eating skill!
Today you will rate your hunger levels on a scale of 1-10 before you eat anything using the Hunger Scale below. If you are a Nutrition Atlanta client and have already been working with the Hunger Scale, bravo. You have a couple of choices today: continue to assess your hunger levels pre-meal and want to take it up a notch, rate your hunger levels when you are half-way through your meal and again when you are done.
Creating this healthy habit of assessing your true hunger is important to nourish your body appropriately and be able to determine if you are eating for physical or emotional reasons. For example, when I wait until my hunger levels are at a 2, it can be difficult for me to make a healthy choice since my blood sugar levels are on the floor (unless I already have my next meal or snack with me ready to go, which I often do at the office).
Where the Hunger Scale is most helpful if you struggle with overeating, is when you are at a 5 (or more). Basically at a 5, you are satisfied, not hungry and not full so perhaps you've been emotionally, mentally or visually stimulated to want to eat food. Maybe you're watching TV or are experiencing unchecked emotions. This is a great opportunity to assess why you are wanting to distract or soothe yourself with food. When I'm stressed and overwhelmed, I can default to eating dry cereal, more than I need. However, if you are 4 or below, you might want to start thinking about what you want to eat. In my experience when I wait too long to eat, I can set myself up for making a not so great decision based on low blood sugar levels.
Rating your hunger levels half-way through your meals will connect you to your body and enable you to start to paying attention to the subtle cues it gives you. Once I started to slow down at meals, I was able to recognize my personal eating patterns. When I yawned during the meal and assessed my hunger levels, I was content and if I stopped eating I never felt stuffed. But if I ignored the yawn and kept eating, I always regretted it because I wound up overeating.
When I shared this discovery with a client of mine going through the challenge she said that her midwife told her to pay attention to when her infant yawned during breastfeeding. That was an indication that her child was “content.” Whether or not that is scientifically accurate, it seems to be the case for me. So start to pay attention to the subtle cues your body may be given you before, during, and after meals. You can start to see patterns and signs to help you work with your unique body instead of against it.
In full disclosure, as a young child I vascillated between chronic overeating and not eating anything at mealtimes. It used to drive my father *crazy* when I would refuse to order or eat anything while dining out. And the truth is, I was likely experiencing a lot of discomfort from my parents divorce coupled with adjusting to his new wife. P.S. I was only five years old. In college my unchecked depression led to eating at my emotions instead of dealing with them, which led to weight gain which led to depression which led to more overeating. It was a horrible cycle I couldn’t seem to get a grip on no matter what I did. And it became my uncomfortable normal.
It would take over a decade for me to finally get my relationship with food moving in a healthier direction and the mindset shift was crucial, absolutely essential. I stopped dieting. I let go of the yo-yo back and forth of being “good” and then really horrible. Spiraling out of control when I was “off my diet” and doing more damage than I did good while on it. It showed on the scale and in my choices. Dieting sets you up for that type of damaging behavior from the wrong mindset in so many ways.
Instead you have to make the decision to adopt a healthier lifestyle for life. That means delete the dieting mentality today, focus on creating long-term lifestyle nutrition and habits, then allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them. You have to stop giving yourself permission to fall down that mental rabbit hole and spiral out of control just because you messed up. Big deal. You can change your patterns if you really want to. Use that situation as an opportunity to step back and see how and why you fell into that trap. Then set personal guidelines to prevent yourself from going down that road you know too well. Just take it one day at a time. One meal at a time. If you get off track, shake it off and refocus for the next meal or snack. Not the next day, week, month, or year. But the VERY. NEXT. MEAL. Stop making excuses. Yes, this is going to take effort and making you a priority. Breathe in the moment. Becoming aware of your breath will tell you more about your emotional well being more than anything else. This is why we dedicate a day to paying attention to it and I can’t stress the importance of focusing on your breath especially before meals to increase your awareness factor of what you are about to do. Eat. Nourish. Enjoy your food.
Ok ME family, today the focus is connecting with your hunger and satiety cues before you eat. People who already use the Hunger Scale can kick it up and use the scale during and after meals. Shoot for feeling content instead of full or stuffed. Find your personal “sweet spot” where you are no longer hungry and not full. Then hit repeat on that as much as you can until it becomes your new normal.
Remember, we are a very fortunate nation. We are not struggling with famines. There is always enough food (actually a surplus). You will be able to eat at the next mealtime. If you struggle at a meal, just work backwards and try to identify the emotion, feeling or trigger that caused the disruption in your mindfulness. No judgment. Shake it off and get back on track for the next meal or snack. And yes, you can do this because you rock!