Eat When Hungry-Stop When Satisfied


Have you ever watched an infant or a child eat? It’s the most fascinating thing. They eat when they are hungry and stop when they are satisfied. They do not count calories, fat grams, or amount of carbohydrates. They do not deliberately starve themselves, nor do they overeat. They listen to both their hunger and satiety cues and eat accordingly.

The older we get, the more distorted our views of eating become. We begin to control (or lose control of) our food intake, and our eating habits become anything but natural. We diet, lose weight, gain weight back, binge, starve, and then start the whole vicious cycle again. How does this craziness stop? How can people figure out when to eat and when to stop eating?

Being aware of hunger and satiety cues and eating in response to them is the first step in figuring out how much you need to eat. Hunger cues might include a feeling of emptiness, fatigue, slight irritability, or a rumbling in your stomach. Feelings of satiety can include physical satisfaction, disappearance of the hunger cues, and sudden energy. Each person experiences individual hunger and satiety cues. It’s up to you to identify and become aware of when you are hungry and when you are satisfied.

A good tool to use is the hunger scale, which starts at 0 and ends at 10. The number “0” is feeling beyond hungry, lightheaded, famished, cranky, and weak. “1” is really really hungry. “2” is really hungry. “3” and “4” are normal hunger. “5” is no feeling. “6” and “7” are satisfied. “8” is full. “9” is really full. “10” is miserably full, such as Thanksgiving dinner full.

Practice rating your hunger level before you eat and then again when you are finished eating. If you do this each time you eat, you will become more familiar with your eating patterns. When you eat in response to physical hunger, you gradually experience a sense of satisfaction. This is your body telling you that the hunger is gone. You may not be attuned to your body’s signals, or you may choose to continue eating for other reasons, but then it is your mind deciding how much to eat, not your body. If you listen to your body, it will reliably “tell” you when it is hungry and when it is full.

For the most part, start eating when you are at level 3-4 and stop eating when you are at level 6-7. This is considered “normal” eating. If you find yourself consistently falling out of this range, you might want to take a good look at your eating habits. Are you eating (or not eating) for emotional reasons? Are you eating enough food to meet your physical needs? Are you in touch with your hunger and satiety cues? Do you need a more structured meal plan? Is eating a pleasant experience? All of this information is important to ensure healthy and pleasant eating.

In summary, eat when you are physically hungry and stop when you are physically satisfied. Do not allow yourself to get too hungry because that could lead to overeating later on. Do not allow yourself to overeat because that does not feel good mentally, emotionally, or physically. Put food in its place as a very small part of your life.



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