Think about what you ate yesterday. And I mean everything. Not just the food on your plate, but the kids’ leftovers, that large slab of chocolate cake for elevenses, and the snacks you munched while making dinner. Now think about why you ate each thing. Were you hungry? Bored? Or did you just eat because the food was there?
The likelihood is at least 50% of the time, you weren’t physically hungry. This may sound bizarre but there’s more than one type of hunger. If you can learn to decode what your body and brain are telling you, you can recognise the difference and give your body what it needs.
So, what are the various types of hunger and how can you recognise them?
This is the type of hunger you want to pay attention to. It’s the feeling you get several hours after a meal, after a long day of work, or after an intense exercise session. Your stomach growls and you might feel tired, shaky, irritable and have difficulty thinking. This is caused by your body’s physical need for nutrients and energy. Eat something packed with nutrients.
Many of us associate food with happiness and comfort from a young age. So it makes sense that we turn to it when we’re tired, bored, stressed or lonely as adults. If you’re an emotional person you may well get intense cravings for sugary foods, as sugar boosts levels of the happy hormone Serotonin in the brain, giving you instant gratification. But sadly, sugar can’t mend a broken heart, make your sadness stop, or solve your problems. Rather it will mess with your blood sugar levels and leave you feeling guilty.
Aside from painful cramps and mood swings, irrational hunger is a side effect of PMS you could do without. Your body is getting ready for a potential pregnancy, so it wants to be prepared. Your hormones peak and trigger a hunger response. Coupled with an increased metabolic rate, it’s no wonder you’re desperate for a quick, high-calorie fix.
Don’t say no to your cravings. Instead, opt for iron-rich foods such as red meat, seafood or leafy greens. This will help to replace the iron you lose before and during your period. Or, invite your friends round for something tasty and split the calories.
Hunger by Association
You’re at a restaurant with a group of friends having dinner. You have a great meal and feel full, that is until people start ordering dessert. Suddenly, the food in your stomach miraculously rearranges itself and makes room for a chocolate brownie.
How and why does that happen? We might be completely satisfied, but when we see someone else eating something desirable we find ourselves hungry for some of the good stuff too. It’s a classic case of hunger by association. We ‘think’ we’re hungry and justify eating something because the people we’re with are eating it. It’s like peer pressure with no actual ‘pressure’ needed.
Learned Hunger: Eating by the clock
Breakfast at 7am, lunch at 12pm and dinner at 6pm. For many of us, hunger and more exactly, when we should be hungry is learned. It’s not something we’re born with. Think for a minute about how babies operate. They’re on their own clock. They eat when they’re physically hungry and stop when they’re satisfied. It’s not until our parents start making us eat breakfast when we get up, lunch at noon, and dinner at six that we start becoming ‘hungry’ at those times.
We also start to make subconscious associations between eating and certain activities, like snacks when watching TV, or mid-afternoon tea and cake, or pizza on a Friday night. We can train our bodies to become hungry on demand and we totally tune out our true hunger cues.
You can recondition your body to listen to your true hunger cues e.g. stomach rumbling. If you eat by the clock, try experimenting. Eat an hour later and see what happens.
Listen to your body
Your body is pretty darn smart. It knows what it needs and when. So, it’s time to start listening. What kind of hungry are you?
Distract yourself with a massage
If you want to tune out your unwanted hunger pangs, why not visit Castle Thai Spa for a relaxing massage or facial? Call us on 0131 629 0794.