Last week I wrote about why we eat when we’re not hungry. The reason that this is such an important topic is that so many weight loss products are banking on the fact that if we can just reduce or eliminate hunger then we won’t eat as much. As we saw in the last post, that belief is pretty misguided, as many people who struggle to maintain a comfortable weight (and many who don’t!) eat for a myriad of reasons that have nothing to do with hunger.

So what on earth do we do about all this un-hungry eating??

The first thing we need to do is to get off that diet bandwagon!!! Seriously, stop dieting. Immediately! Dieting is just not congruent with learning how to tune into our body’s signals and eat according to hunger and satiety.

The next step is building awareness: Try keeping a food-and-mood diary for a week. You can do this with paper and pen or with one of the new iPhone apps like Recovery Record – make sure you don’t use one that is also a calorie counter! After a week, have a look at your diary and see if you can identify how much of your eating was hunger-driven and how much was not. You might be surprised by the results.

We then have to start differentiating between actually being hungry and thinking “I want to eat”. Ask yourself “Am I really hungry?” If you find it hard to tell, it might help to ask yourself if the feeling of hunger is just from the neck up (ie. head or mouth hunger) or from the neck down as well – whole body hunger. ‘Neck up hunger’ tends to mean that there is something else driving your urge to eat. See if you can identify what it is – go over the list in the last post if that helps! If you have identified that you are wanting to eat for a reason other than hunger, see if you can find another way of satisfying that need or managing that emotion without turning to food. Remember, if the problem is not hunger then food is not the solution!

Once we have made the decision to eat, try and ask yourself “What do I really feel like right now?” rather than “what should I eat?”. Then we need to eat slowly and mindfully, using all of our senses. This way we not only maximise our pleasure and enjoyment from the eating experience, but we also give ourselves a much better chance of recognising when we have had enough. For many people who have been habitually overeating it can be hard to recognise this point, and many are totally unaware of satiety until they are way past full, so another way of judging when we have had enough is to identify when our enjoyment of the food or meal we are eating starts to decrease.
It is totally okay if you struggle with this at first. It’s all about practice. The most important thing is not to beat yourself up if you do find that you’ve eaten more than feels comfortable, or if you have eaten for un-hungry reasons. Just try again the next time you feel the urge to eat!

I’d love to know if anyone puts these strategies into practice or is willing to give it a try – let us know how you go! Feel free to share your experience below.