Weight loss can often feel like an uphill battle. The temptation to snack or to eat portion sizes that are too large can feel like it’s unavoidable. However, if you understand the biology of your cravings and make short weight loss goals that are sustainable, you will build better habits over time.
Appetite vs. Hunger
The concepts of hunger and appetite are sometimes used interchangeably. However, they couldn’t be more different.
Hunger is when your body physically needs to eat. Hunger occurs in stages; first you may have a feeling of emptiness in your stomach along with growling and rumbling, second you may experience a headache or feel shaky or weak. It is thought that low blood sugars and certain hormones may trigger these hunger signals.
Appetite is your desire to eat. Many external and internal cues influence your appetite from cravings, emotions, the smell of food cooking, and eating habits. When you eat according to your appetite instead of hunger, excess calories are usually consumed leading to extra weight.
There are many techniques to help identify a biological craving (true hunger) and an emotional craving. One way is to use the following guidelines for physical cravings as compared to emotional cravings
PHYSICAL (BIOLOGICAL) CRAVING QUALITIES:
- You are experiencing true signs of hunger.
- The craving does not go away with time.
- The craving actually gets stronger with time.
- There is no relief from the craving except to eat the food being craved.
EMOTIONAL CRAVING QUALITIES:
- No signs of true hunger are being experienced.
- With time the craving goes away.
- The level of intensity does not get worse with time; only the emotion.
- Finding and doing something else satisfies the need and the craving goes away.
Many things can trigger your desire to eat; a commercial on T.V., the smell of food, the sight of a favorite food, or just knowing you have snacks in the house can trigger food cravings. Determine what “eating triggers” affect you; then learn to control the triggers by finding a solution when you are in that situation.
For example, if you find that you eat when you are bored or doing an activity like watching TV, you might try to do something else, such as reading a book or going for a walk in order to avoid emotional cravings.
Using the Hunger/Fullness Rating Scale
Sometimes, it’s possible to have trouble determining your level of hunger. If you tend to overeat, this is especially difficult. Using a hunger/fullness rating scale like the one below helps you reach an equilibrium in your habits that can help you lose weight over a long period of time.
HUNGER/FULLNESS RATING SCALE:
10 Absolutely, positively stuffed
9 So full that it hurts
8 Very full and bloated
7 Starting to feel uncomfortable
6 Slightly overeaten
5 Perfectly comfortable
4 First signals that your body needs food
3 Strong signals to eat
2 Very hungry, irritable
1 Extreme hunger, dizziness
Improving Your Eating Habits
Follow these tips and you’ll continue to build healthy eating habits that result in weight loss and better overall health!
- Don’t starve yourself – Your weight loss plan will go nowhere if you simply refuse to eat. Make a conscious choice to eat better and sustain your energy.
- Choose foods that are satisfying (whole grain/high fiber, good protein) – The foods you eat can determine your success.
- Choose activities that you truly enjoy – Whether it’s walking, joining a sports team, or trying something new, the activities you do will help you find the fun in your weight loss journey.
- Don’t be over restrictive – Allow yourself to eat small amounts of foods you love so the transition to a better lifestyle is more sustainable
- Listen to your body – Is it telling that you are full, or do you need a second portion? determine if you are satisfied or if you need a second portion. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to register if you are satisfied, so don’t ignore the signals it’s sending you about your hunger.
If you are ready to get started with weight loss, don’t go it alone. Contact MD Health & Wellness today – we can help!