Friday, August 26, 2016

Are You Hungry?

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.  

By analyzing where you fall on the scale with extreme hunger on one end (1) 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. 


Connie said...

Interesting post! Great work! Do you have any recommendations on meditation/mindfulness practices that can help one eat more consciously?

Denise the Dietitian said...

Hi Connie!

Great question! To be honest I am not an expert on meditation, but I know that the human body and the way it functions has never changed.

The way we have obtained food even since the time period of hunters/gatherers has, however. The difference is that in today's society we have an abundance of food and we eat even when we are not hungry. I don't know the facts, but I would guess that if individuals living in the hunter/gatherer time period had food available to them like we do today they would eat to their hearts content.

It's about survival.

With that said, we are still trying to survive today. Since there is an abundance of food and we pass fast food places and food joints on a daily basis, we must have some internal control over it if we want to remain healthy. So really, the physical feeling of hunger and our gift of hunger cues (stomach growling, headache, irritable, etc.) is the best way in my opinion to have a sense of whether we are hungry or not.

I always suggest eating in the morning after waking up, then wait till your body gives the cue to eat again (normally it's a few hours later). Choose healthy foods that will provide what your body needs. Then wait again till your body gives you another cue (stomach growling). Give the nutritious food it craves (fruits, vegetables, low fat meats/cheese, whole-grains).

Continue this routine the rest of the day. The point is to not look at the time on the clock or a commercial or billboard to let you know when you are hungry. Instead, trust your body to give you the physical signals that it is hungry and go from there.

Hope this helps!


Max Paganetti said...

Great information! I found this article extremely helpful, thanks for the share!

Denise the Dietitian said...

Thank you Max Paganetti! I'm happy it was helpful for you!


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