This post we are changing direction a little and beginning to focus on the practice of mindful eating as it relates to hunger and fullness cues.
Mindful Eating Moment #5
Understanding what physical hunger is, and how it manifests, is one of the first steps in becoming a more mindful eater. According to Megrette Fletcher (M.E guru!), physical hunger builds slowly, and has multiple cues.
It is important to be able to recognise physical hunger because:
1. Ignoring it, avoiding it, or denying it has disastrous effects on our physical and psychological health. This disregard for our hunger cues is what we see in dieting behaviours and “healthy eating” regimes. If you’ve ever started a diet, only to find that eventually you just can’t maintain it anymore, then you will understand what I mean when I say dieting (aka restriction) doesn’t work – on every level!
2. When we lose track of what OUR OWN physical hunger (and subsequent fullness) feels like, we lose all ability to eat mindfully and intuitively. This is when we are more likely to eat beyond fullness, eat when we are not actually hungry, starve ourselves when we should be eating etc… etc… Basically, we become disconnected from the body and our relationship with food is compromised.
Here are a few signs of physical hunger (versus emotional or boredom hunger) to keep an eye out for:
– Growling/grumbling tummy
– Weak/low energy
– Poor concentration/cognition
– Gnawing/empty feeling in the stomach
The pathway to recognising and honouring our hunger cues is via the non-judgmental curiosity and self-kindness we have discussed in previous weeks. We can take a moment to pause and “check in” with the body when we experience any of the above sensations, and we can ask ourselves – “what am I experiencing?”; “Is it pleasant, unpleasant or neutral?”; “what might help me to address these sensations?”.
A hunger/fullness scale is really useful to help you gauge your hunger cues, especially when first starting out. The scale below by Megrette Fletcher can be found on her site www.megrette.com, along with hunger/fullness scales for children as well.
What we are learning by using a SCALE as a guide is that we have the opportunity to LISTEN to our body’s cues at various stages. By listening to these subtle or very clear messages, and recognising how they make us feel, we will be better equipped to make decisions about how to act.
An important note: There is no right or wrong here! There is no magic place to start eating or stop eating along the scale. The end goal is to act in a way which makes eating a positive and enjoyable experience for YOU – whatever that means for your body. All you have to do is listen and honour it!
Source: Fletcher, M. (2017). Core Concepts of Mindful Eating: The Professional Edition.