Theorically, if we were machines, like a car for example, we would eat only when we feel hungry, when we need fuel to run and work.
It can make sense, if you only eat when you’re hungry, then you will be providing yourself just enough fuel to be healthy without overdoing it on calories and you will achieve your body weight and body-figure goals.
But the truth is, and fortunaly for us, we are not machines, we have feelings, emotions and an intelligent brain.
If you have try the strategy of only eating when you are hungry, you probably has fallen lamenting your lack of willpower, in guilt and in self-sabotaging. This sentence may sound familiar for you… ‘I try to be healthy and eat only when I’m hungry but can get my hands out of the donuts box or the crisps bag’.
As long as you follow this advice and pretend that’s an achievable goal, the longer you will suffer, and the further you will be of achieving your healthy goals.
We, as humans eat for hunger, but also for many other reasons like the once I mention below.
I’ve always said that I love food, I really enjoy every bite of it and it is because food is delicious and can be deeply rewarding. Many times we eat just because we like a particular food. This is a fact and a characteristic not a mistake.
It’s common for some people to go to food in response to stress, anxiety, shame or any other negative emotions. But there is also the side when we turn into food to celebrate and to be part of a joy and happiness, think in the big feast at weddings, birthday parties and big social events.
Personally I used to have breakfast first thing in the morning, just woken up I went straight to the kitchen for my bowl of cereals. And how many of you eat lunch because it’s lunch time? When you adopt healthy eating habits your brain learns to moderate your hunger levels according to the rhythms you set. But if you develop unhealthy eating habits, this can work against your, you for example may have train your brain to always eat a bar of chocolate after lunch, and you end up doing it just as a habit, not because you really wish for it.
Where we are born, grown up and live, many times determinate what, when, where, how and why we eat. This was ok until the industrial era and convenience foods arrived to our lifes. Now you can find the same kind of unhealthy food everywhere in the world.
It’s important we satisfy all your nutritional needs. Throw food you should provide you body with all minerals and vitamins it needs as well as protein, carbs and fats. Your belly may be full, but if you are not getting adequate nutrition from the food you’re eating you may still experience cravings to eat. For example you cravings for chocolate can be telling you, you need more magnesium.
All these motivations for eating are perfectly valid, the problem comes when we make poor food choices and/or overeat in those situations. So the issue is the result of eating unhealthy food instead of the reasons of eating it.
It’s okay to eat something to comfort yourself after a stressful day at work, eat it because it tastes good or enjoy a meal with your friends. These are totally normal and it’s part of being alive, no matter your size.
Actually, ignoring your cravings or repressing yourself can lead to bingeing. So only eating when hungry is impractical and doesn’t work, it makes you feel guilty and it’s highly probable that you will end up sabotaging yourself.
You need a strategy that actually helps you make better choices, and only eat when hungry is not. You need to accept that there is a valid reason behind all of your urges to eat, be aware of all those needs and don’t ignore them.
If you accept those reasons, and believe they are valid, when you find yourself in front of ‘unhealthy’ food and your willpower is weakened you will may eat few more calories than planned; but if you think you should only eat when you are hungry and find yourself in the same situation with a big table of ‘unhealthy’ food and lack of willpower, I’m sure you will end up eating much more and won’t enjoy it as much.
When we are experiencing difficulties or few bumps in our normal life, it’s wonderful to endeavor for habits that meet your hunger needs with real and natural food and avoid impulsively eating processed foods. But also important is connecting with loved ones, taking care of your emotional needs, and even enjoying life’s pleasures.
Food is such an important part of life, it is relevant to all of your values, not just health. Once you accept this, it is much easier to get the balance right.
Are you one of those who only eat when you are hungry? How did it go?