As newborns, we let our moms know when it was time to feed us. For some moms, we were nice enough to get ourselves on a regular feeding schedule, for other moms we weren’t quite as organized, but for a newborn baby, when the body says food, he/she sends signals to be fed. Parents don’t want to hear their baby crying and grow to recognize when their child is hungry and feeds he/she accordingly.
As the baby grows into a child, the food on demand becomes less and the family food routine takes over. Generally this looks like three meals plus snacks.
By the time we’re teens, messages from outside sources and body image plays a part in our food routine. You may have been told to finish everything on your plate, finish your plate or no dessert, or maybe children in Africa starved because you didn’t finish your plate. I don’t know about you, but I experienced all the above.
Along the way, expectations, both parental and the ways of our society, affected our ability to listen to our body when it comes to food. Often we don’t know our signs of hunger, and more complicated, we don’t recognize our body’s sign for when we’ve had enough.
The concept of eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re satisfied seems foreign to most of us. How do we recognize hunger or satisfaction? And harder yet, how do we break cycles of societal expectations that are ingrained in us since early childhood?
Think about this for a few seconds — when was the last time you recognized that your body was truly hungry? How did you know it was hunger signs?
As a child, one message given to me was eat before you feel hungry, if you wait till your body tells you it needs food, it’s too late. [Too late for what, I have no idea.] This makes no sense at all. I’ve worked hard, literally for years, and sometimes I still mess up recognizing true hunger. It’s hard work to break childhood lessons.
I know now that I generally get two body signs when I’m hungry – a growling stomach or a headache. Other people can get different signs – irritability, loss of concentration, light-headedness, nausea.
Something surprising to pay attention to is how food tastes when you’re hungry. It’s unbelievable how much more pleasing food is to your taste buds when you’re body genuinely wants food.
Also, try listening to what your body is craving when you’re hungry. Believe me, if you’re truly hungry it won’t be chips and pop. Your body will crave for nutrients that it’s needing. You might be surprised to find you actually crave an apple.
If I wait too long when I’m hungry and I’ve gone from early signs of hunger, to “feeling famished” it becomes very difficult to make good food choices. I then look for the fastest thing available, and that is not always a healthy choice. There is a line you don’t want to cross between feeling hungry and feeling famished.
When was the last time you noticed the sign your body gives you when you’re satisfied? When you’ve had enough food? This one can be harder to notice. And it’s likely before you finish your plate and long before you feel full.
I get one sign from my body when I’ve had enough food — a sigh. It’s that small, and that simple. And so easy to miss. However, after years of paying attention to my body and listening to what it needs, I have learned two things that help me immensely:
- Slow down when eating. When you slow down, you can sense your body signals more clearly. Notice signs of hunger. Notice signs of satisfaction. Take the time to savour the flavour.
- Smaller portions. If you’re truly hungry you can get seconds, but likely you’ll notice the signs of satisfaction before going for another plate.
Try for the next few days to notice what hunger signals your body sends you, and what satisfaction signs you receive. You may be surprised. Feel free to comment about your signals, you may help someone else recognize theirs.