Friday, August 15, 2014

How To Distinguish Between Hunger and Satiety

Hunger and satiety, aka fullness, are part of the driving mechanism that controls our daily eating habits.  We all experience symptoms of hunger and we all experience symptoms of fullness.  I am choosing to write about hunger and satiety because the symptoms that accompany the two can be ignored.  A classic example is a gathering for a holiday or summer cookout where the desire to consume mouth-watering food and beverages even after our stomachs are full is high.

At the gathering, we may spoon a serving or two of the indulgent food onto our platters because it looks so delicious.  I can say for myself that 95% of the time there is a social or family gathering, my plate is filled. 

Although my plate is filled to the brim, I am tuned-in to my body.  I am mindfully aware to how hungry I am at the beginning of a meal as well as the moment that triggers physical fullness.  The concept of eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full sounds easy, but the reality is there are many variables that come into play when we decide if we are going to keep eating or not.  It is important to be mindfully aware of the physical and psychological  signs and symptoms that we are experiencing on the hunger and satiety scale. 

In Today's Dietitian, March 2013 Issue, author Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD shares an example of a hunger scale to assist individuals with being mindful of hunger and fullness levels.  She says to "rate your hunger from 0 to 10 (0 being the most hungry and 10 being the least hungry)." 

By analyzing where you fall on the scale with extreme hunger on one end (0) and "oh my goodness, I think my pants are about to bust" (10), we can learn to consume food in moderation and appreciate food as the nourishment our body needs to obtain a healthy lifestyle. 

“The Hunger-Satiety Rating Scale” listed below  is from Why Weight?  A Guide to Ending Compulsive Eating  by Geneen Roth and reposted by Erica Lesperance, RD, LD in an internet article via the Diet Channel: Diet Essentials: Learn To Recognize Your Hunger Cues.

Satiety 10 = Stuffed to the point of feeling sick
 9 = Very uncomfortably full, need to loosen your belt
 8 = Uncomfortably full, feel stuffed
 7 = Very full, feel as if you have overeaten
 6 = Comfortably full, satisfied
Neutral 5 = Comfortable, neither hungry nor full
 4 = Beginning signals of hunger
 3 = Hungry, ready to eat
 2 = Very hungry, unable to concentrate
Hungry1 = Starving, dizzy, irritable

If we are mindful to where we fall on the hunger and satiety scale, we will be able to pay attention to our inner voice, the voice that tells us whether we are truly hungry or truly full. If we ignore the symptoms between 1-3 or 7-10 our bodies will not be in a neutral, balanced state and we will physically feel the effects.

The physical symptoms our body experiences in relation to hunger are internal cues to signal to our brain that it is time to eat.  Hunger symptoms include gurgling or growling in stomach, dizziness, headache, irritability, or nausea.  Our bodies are wired so that our internal physical symptoms of hunger can be communicated to our brain in an effort to motivate an external response for us to eat food.  This is a survival mechanism. 

It is our responsibility to pay attention, to be mindful of where we fall on this scale, and to be aware of our inner voice especially in a society that surrounds us with a plethora of food and beverage options.  We are surrounded by mouth-watering food on a daily basis.  It is important to recognize that our mental desire for the mouth-watering food can take over our physical symptoms of hunger and fullness.  By "mindfully eating" we can overcome our mental desire to consume too much indulgent food whether it is a holiday, social gathering, or an average American day. 

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