The Importance of Listening to Hunger Cues

Very often in our society, you will hear people see things like, “Ugh, why I am always so hungry” or “I can’t control my appetite” or “I just ate, why am I starving?”

We view our hunger cues as the enemy. Our stomachs our “bottomless pits” that won’t leave us alone. We call our hunger the demon, the monster, the enemy. Especially on days when we’re bored, sad, lonely, hormonal, you name it, our appetite can’t seem to be suppressed. But here’s the message I want to get across with this post: Being hungry is OKAY. I am constantly disgusted and horrified by all of these appetite suppressant products on the market, designed to “curb your appetite” “keep you satiated for hours” “help you lose weight fast” when in reality, all these products are doing is messing with your brain and body communication, in turn doing lots of damage.

I am a college student and I have heard so many stories about girls doing drugs, smoking cigarettes, and taking pills in order to stay skinny, and this breaks my heart. Doing these things may work short term to keep you skinny, but over time, as the body becomes depleted from vital nutrients, it will start to shut down. Your body will begin to take nutrients from not only the remaining fat you have, but also your hair, your fingernails, your skin, and even the tissue surrounding your joints. That is why those who struggle with eating problems often have very brittle hair, lackluster skin, and their nails chip off.

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As I mentioned earlier, there are thousands of products on the market that are meant to keep your hunger at bay and shut down your hunger cues but this is not normal nor is it healthy. Our bodies are smart! If we feel hungry, it is because we probably ARE hungry and need food. Your stomach doesn’t just growl for no apparent reason, and particularly if you workout and are active during the day, this means your metabolism is firing and you need food to keep it going.

I am a fairly active person, despite the fact I need to sit for many hours during the day to complete work and attend class, I make it a point to get to the gym at least five days a week, and walk everywhere I can. I’m always very busy, and this means I need a lot of energy to keep me going. It’s also important to understand that even if you sat around all day and did absolutely nothing, your body would still require energy to function properly.

Obviously, I’m not saying you need to stuff your face all day long and it is important to create a healthy relationship with your hunger cues, so that you can fairly assess when you are actually hungry, rather than just bored. Here is how to do that:

  1. Always stay hydrated. Sometimes when we think we’re hungry, we are actually just thirsty and need to drink some more water. If you’ve already eaten but still feel hungry, try drinking a tall glass of water and see how you feel.
  2. Assess your level of activity. For me personally, on a day where I train legs and worked hard in the gym, I am way more hungrier than normal. This makes sense, because even after you leave the gym and get home, your muscles are repairing tissue and your metabolism is still firing, meaning that long after the session is done, the body remains burning calories. This is why I love weight lifting so much!
  3. When you do eat, eat slowly and take time to chew your food. Eating slowly and enjoying the food you consume is very important when it comes to feeling satisfied after a meal. It can be difficult, but try to really focus on whatever it is you are eating rather than just shove it into your mouth. This practice will leave you feeling satiated, and prevent binge-eating episodes as well.
  4. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and foods high in fiber. I love smoothies, salads, and meals that have lots of fiber in them. Eating this way will keep you feeling full for longer periods of time, so that you don’t feel tempted to snack or pick at unhealthy things when you’re feeling peckish. I like to have three bigger meals during the day, rather than continuously eat small meals because it’s more convenient for me and I have more time to do other things rather than worry about food.
  5. Prioritize sleep. When we don’t sleep well, it can actually cause us to feel hungrier the next day because our body needs to work harder to stay awake and function properly. It seems strange, but this has been proven again and again in major studies. My last post was on how to sleep better, so be sure to read that if you need some tips.

The main takeaways from this post are to listen to your hunger cues, never deprive yourself, eat nutritious food, and establish a better relationship by listening to your body and accurately assessing when you’re actually hungry rather than just bored or tired.

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