To truly handle your hunger, you must manage your mind. This habit is the key to lasting weight loss, and it is usually one of the biggest challenges we are faced with on a daily basis.
The Core Four method focuses on eating mindfully so that you can lose weight and change your life. What does it mean to eat mindfully?
You can call it stress eating, emotional eating, or eating your feelings. Whatever you call it, you’re not eating mindfully if you’re eating when you’re not really hungry. The reason it is so hard to change is because the food is fulfilling some need that we have. The food is a crutch in some way.
Mindful eating is all about paying attention. To eat mindfully, you need to eat slowly and without distractions whenever possible. You need to listen to your body. You need to work on learning (and following) your hunger cues which means no more eating your feelings.
- No eating because of stress, anger, or sadness.
- No eating for comfort or companionship.
- No eating for entertainment or to stay awake.
- No eating for happiness or fulfillment.
- No eating simply because the food tastes good.
So how do we change our actions? First we have to change our thinking. Does mindful eating sound hard or scary to you? I used to think that. I used to think it wasn’t structured enough and that I wouldn’t be able to control myself. Those were just my thoughts, and none of them were facts.
It turns out that mindful eating is actually very freeing. It has helped me remove so much stress and worry from my eating life and has shown me a way I can really LIVE while maintaining a healthy weight. It takes practice, but it gets easier with time and it is SO worth it!
HANDLE YOUR HUNGER IN 4 STEPS
STEP 1 – MAKE A PLAN
How does planning help you with your hunger? This ties into the Plan & Reflect habit of the Core Four method. When you plan what to eat and reflect on your feelings and physical huger cues before and after eating, you will start to identify patterns.
You also learn to plan real food that you WANT to eat without guilt or fear. Mindful eating doesn’t mean deprivation or starving yourself. Eating mindfully allows you to eat anything in moderation.
STEP 2 – ASSESS YOUR HUNGER
Are you physically hungry? The most important lesson I have learned is how to listen to my body and eat because I’m physically hungry. We tend to eat for tons of reasons that are not about physical hunger, so removing all that extra eating dramatically helps with weight loss.
BEFORE you eat, assess how you are feeling. If you are not really hungry but want to eat for an emotional reason, don’t do it. Face the emotion. Why do you want to eat? What problem will eating solve?
STEP 3 – CHOOSE TO EAT OR TO WAIT
If you are physically hungry, you have two choices: eat your planned food or wait for your next meal. That’s it. There’s no need to be stressed or anxious or worried. It’s up to you and depends on your circumstances.
If you know your lunch break is in 30 minutes, maybe you should just wait and be okay with being a little hungry. If you are starving or hangry and still have hours until your next planned meal, you should probably eat!
EAT WITHOUT DISTRACTIONS. Stop multitasking and focus on your meal. We can all afford 10 minutes to tune out the world and tune into our bodies. It’s hard to know if you are truly hungry if you are eating while working, surfing social media, or watching TV.
EAT SLOWLY. Studies show that it takes our brains up to 20 minutes to realize we are full, but most people finish their food in 10 minutes or less. Obviously if you’re already done eating by the time your brain realizes you are full, it’s too late.
STEP 4 – ASSESS YOUR FULLNESS
While you are eating your meal, keep checking in with your body to see how it’s feeling. The goal is to be satisfied, not stuffed or sick. Remember that our brains don’t always know when we are full. If you think you might be done, you probably are. If you wait 10 minutes and still feel slightly hungry, then you need to eat a little more.
THIS WILL TAKE PRACTICE. You will overeat many times until you find your sweet spot. Just stick with it. Keep track of how you feel so that you can learn from each meal. If you are using the Core Four Meal Planner, there’s a “Handle Your Hunger” box on each daily plan!
After you eat, how do you feel? Are you comfortable or stuffed? Do you wish you would have stopped sooner, or do you feel like you need to eat more? While you are learning, it’s natural to worry about being hungry later. But if you are, so what? Then you’ll eat again. There are no rules about how often you should be eating.
CORE FOUR HUNGER SCALE
To help you assess your hunger and fullness levels, you can also follow the Core Four Hunger Scale. It’s easy to fall back into the habit of mindless eating, but the hunger scale keeps you conscious of what you are doing.
You want to avoid extremes on the hunger scale. Waiting for -3 or -4 sets you up for more struggles than necessary. It’s time to eat when you are at a -1 or -2. Likewise, stop eating when you reach a 1 or 2. Do not eat to a 3 or 4, as this will make you feel miserable. Often level 3 or 4 brings on shame or guilt as well.
How do you know if you ate too little or too much?
Your stomach is our best measuring device! It goes everywhere with you and adapts as your activity levels adapt or as your NEEDS adapt. Trust yourself and your ability to learn this skill. You don’t need an app to tell you when or how much to eat. You got this.
You will need different amounts of food on different days. This is totally normal. If you try to force yourself to have the exact same amount of food every single day, your body is not getting what it needs. This often leads to us feeling hungry, frustrated, and deprived…which often leads us to quitting!
Why do we overeat?
Overeating happens for so many reasons, but none of the reasons are hunger. When we give our bodies more fuel than they need, that’s overeating. Usually overeating is a symptom of some other problem.
For me, I didn’t know how to handle my emotions. We didn’t really talk about our feelings when I was growing up. I was taught that I shouldn’t rock the boat or speak up for myself. I had been taught that using drugs and alcohol was wrong, but no one ever said anything about not abusing food.
The main issue with my emotional eating definitely stemmed from not speaking my feelings. Trying to grin and bear it or bite my tongue all the time became very exhausting and felt very fake.
Anytime I felt like I “shouldn’t” say something, I would stuff the feelings down with food. Every time I would get stressed or upset or unsatisfied with something in my life, I would eat. It was like I didn’t know how to fix the actual problems so I ate to escape them.
We all KNOW that we shouldn’t overeat, but we don’t know how to stop or don’t choose to stop in the moment. We can change that!
What is your reason for overeating? Keep probing until you really understand your why. Once you know the driving force behind the behavior, it’s much easier to change it. If you are using the Progress Not Perfection Journal, this is a perfect topic to write about!
YOU CAN DO THIS!
You might have to work at it, but start believing in yourself! It is freeing to truly believe you can do it. I didn’t used to believe in myself. I thought I had to eat by the numbers because I was out of control and couldn’t trust my own decisions. Those thoughts led to a total state of fear. Living in fear is no way to live!
Now when I start to think I can’t do something, I tell myself “Actually, I CAN!” My brain needs the reminder and it helps so much to counter negative thoughts with positive ones. Actually, I can listen to my body and stop when I’ve had enough. Actually, I can eat my splurge without wrecking my entire week. Actually, I can eat foods I love and still lose weight.