Like many people, I’d over-ridden my body’s natural appetite – eating when I wasn’t really hungry, and continuing to eat when I was full. This did not feel good.
My relationship with food felt out of sync, so I chose to explore ways to more ‘conscious’ eating.
The other day I took my young grandson to feed the ducks. As usual they quacked their way across the pond, squabbling to get the bread as quickly as we threw it to them. They were hungry!
We had rather a lot of bread, and after a while I noticed some of the ducks drifting away, then more, until just a few ducks were left chasing the bread. Clearly the ducks knew when they had had enough!
Similarly, left to their instincts, infants and young children eat when they are hungry, and stop when they have had enough.
If only I did the same! Well that’s what I set out to do, inspired particularly by Geneen Roth’s and Deepak Chopra’s approaches.
I found that a good first step towards more conscious eating was to re-find how my body feels when she is physically hungry. As it had been long time since I’d felt real hunger, I was curious to experience this state again.
So after lunch one day I chose not to eat until I was hungry. Dinner time came and went – not hungry. I woke up – not hungry. Breakfast time – not hungry. Finally, I felt hungry at lunch time – 24 hours after I last ate! Of course the t
ime it takes to feel really hungry varies considerably from person to person – it may well be much less for you than it was for me, as I have quite a low metabolic rate.
For me physical hunger is a deep empty feeling in my stomach, that comes up to my throat. For you it may be a different feeling.
However, it’s important to be aware that physical hunger is not:
- Seeing chocolate and wanting to eat it – that’s mind hunger
- Feeling bored/stressed/lonely – that’s emotional hunger
- Feeling a lack of purpose – that’s spiritual hunger.
I’ll address these triggers in other articles, meanwhile experiencing physical hunger is a good first step to explore.
After reminding myself what physical hunger felt like, I set out, as far as possible, to eat when I was hungry. This proved surprisingly easy, and I found myself really enjoying my food and eating it with relish. And, as a welcome side effect I lost an inch or so from my ‘muffin’ waistline.
Tips for eating when physically hungry
First you need to want to experience physical hunger / conscious eating
If not now, there’s no point in trying to force yourself – you’ll only feel deprived. Better to wait until more conscious eating is really something you want to explore. I did this with my friend, which made it so much easier.
Choose a time that’s practical
You’ll need a time when it’s realistic to wait until you are hungry to eat, a period when you have no committed meals with others!
Notice how you feel
What does physical hunger feel like in your body?
How does the rest of you feel? I felt more self-respect once I’d waited until my body was ready to eat.
Check if you want to continue
Ask yourself whether you want to continue to eat when you’re physically hungry – again the motivation needs to come from within.
Take baby steps
You might want to start by not eating until you’re hungry in the morning. So rather than automatically eat breakfast after getting up, wait until you experience physical hunger. Then eat as usual the rest of the day.
Be gentle with yourself!
If you’ve spent much of your lifetime eating ‘unconsciously’ it’s going to take a while to re-learn conscious eating. When you slip up, simply move on, no need to judge yourself.
If you eat together as a family, you may want to pace your eating so as to be hungry at mealtimes. If you’re going out for dinner, try eating lightly at lunchtime. If you overeat at one meal, miss out, or eat lightly, at the next.
Avoid late evening eating
Not eating in the evening gives your body a fast period until morning, so that you’ll actually be hungry at some point in the morning. If I eat late at night I’m not hungry in the morning, and then it’s easy to slip back into unconscious eating. For me it works well not to eat after 7pm.
As you experience the benefits of eating when you’re hungry, you’ll find it gets easier to continue!
Watch this space for more pointers towards conscious eating, and meanwhile please share how it goes for you…