You want to eat! You “feel” hungry, but is it really hunger? Could it be boredom? frustration? wanting to get out of the task at hand? Habit?
Hunger often comes in waves. If you wait long enough, the wave will pass.
And “hunger” often comes with certain emotional states. You may be feeling fine one minute, but be looking in the fridge the next minute even though you just ate an hour ago. Could this be linked to a change in emotional state? It came on so suddenly. What happened?
We often feel our feelings in our gut and can mistake them for hunger. Tuning in to these emotions can help ward off the feelings that we may have mistaken for hunger.
Eating real food (the stuff you find on the perimeter of your grocery store and that doesn’t have a label) will help to keep your cravings down.
Also, eating at consistent times can keep your hunger at bay. Within those meal times, eat intentionally, and stop when you sense the first signs of satiety.
I’m not suggesting under eating. That comes with its own set of problems.
As stated in Carb Addiction is Not Your Fault, food can give our brains a dopamine hit. Dopamine is the “feel good” hormone. But there are lots of other things that can do this as well. Finding healthier options to get this feeling will keep you moving toward the vision that you hold for yourself of health and wellbeing.
The following are things that you might find me doing when faced with the decision of whether to eat or not. If, after trying these things I find that I really am hungry, then I may decide to eat. However, I find that often a diversion is all that I need. I realize that I wasn’t really hungry at all. Then, when mealtime comes and I really am physiologically hungry, I have an easier time knowing when I am full or satisfied.
Take a break, even 5 or 10 minutes can help. Do something that will improve your mood, such as…
- Make a pot of green tea and light a beeswax candle. Create a positive environment. If you don’t like green tea, try mineral water, or just drink a big glass of filtered water. You could also try a small cup of black coffee; you might even like it. Also, I love the scent of beeswax, so this always puts me in a good mood. What scents do you like?
- Keep a jumprope handy. Set the timer for 1 minute and go… This HIT (high intensity training) exercise can help with your blood sugar regulation. We spend so much time sitting these days. It’s important to get up and move every 30 to 40 minutes. Our bodies were not meant to sit for long periods of time day in and day out. You’ll be surprised at the benefits of only 1 minute of intense movement.
- Do a quick set of calisthenics. This has the same benefit as the HIT exercise above and it builds muscle when done consistently. It only takes a few minutes every day. Do a set of push-ups, pull ups, squats, and a plank to fail, until your body screams NO MORE… This will send an important message to your body – “I need to be stronger!”
- Sit on a cushion on the floor in front of a sunny window, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, in and out, in and out… Calm down the sympathetic nervous system and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. I have included a link to some guided meditations in the Resource section at the end of this post. It includes some great breathing exercises.
- Do your favorite meditation. Go inside yourself for a few minutes. There is so much to learn. There are so many possibilities here. I have a favorite sitting meditation, but I often like to do a moving meditation like Qigong. This allows some stretching and movement as well as some self massage and some focus on pressure points. I always feel refreshed after doing this! I feel like I’ve stretched, had a massage and acupuncture all rolled up in one. I have included a link of my favorite Qigong channel in the Resources section at the bottom of this post.
- Set a timer for 5-10 minutes and do a quick pick up of your environment. Put some dishes away, or clean the bathroom. A clear environment can equal a clear head. Every little bit helps. Just as certain foods give your brain a dopamine hit, the feeling of a tidy, clean house can do the same. Again, seek that feeling from things that will help you get to where you want to go, not in things that hinder your progress.
- Go for a brisk walk, even if it’s just around the block. This is another chance to get some sun on your face on a nice day. Getting sun in your eyes during the day can help you sleep better at night. Take in the nature scene around you, even if you live in a city. Notice the trees, the flowers, and the birds. It’s an inexpensive way to improve your mood.
- Call a friend. We’re social creatures, even if you’re an introvert, like I am. Reaching out and checking in with someone else can take your mind off of yourself. Or have a friend lined up who you can call and discuss what you’re feeling, a friend who will encourage you if you’re down, or make you laugh, which is a great mood booster.
- Write in your journal. Note how you’re feeling. If you need some help pinpointing your feelings, I’ve included a download about Types of Feelings at the bottom of this post. Another idea for a journal entry is to note what you’re grateful for. A gratitude journal has many benefits. You can find these benefits included in a previous post The Sacred Teaching About How You Should Think. If you are creative, do this in a creative way, with color and doodles. You could also use this time to read some of your past journal entries. So often we take the time to write in our journals, but then never go back and read them. There is often great insight and wisdom in those entries. It might be just what you need in that moment.
- Read a chapter of your favorite book. I always have a book (or two or three) that I’m reading and I love to stop and read when I need a break. I usually turn to non-fiction books because I thrive on learning new things, but for you it may be a fiction book that opens your imagination.
- Do absolutely NOTHING. This is probably the hardest of all. Just sit. Give yourself a break from everything for a few minutes. Can you even imagine what that might be like?
- Put on your favorite music and dance! I saved this for last because it always lifts my spirit. Select the music according to your mood. Having a few go to tunes can be helpful so you don’t have to put too much thought into it in the moment. Once you hit play, your brain will go to the mood that’s linked with that music. Maybe you want to skip the dance and just listen to some calm, quiet music. Do what feels right to you in the moment.
I hope these ideas are helpful for you. And I hope that you’ll come up with your own personalized list. Once you implement these new diversions long enough you’ll create new ways of coping or reacting when you think you’re hungry. Maybe you’ll learn that the signals you were feeling weren’t really hunger at all. You’ll recognize them for what they are and learn how to give your body what it really needs in the moment. And if it is hunger… well that’s a whole new blogpost. But in a nutshell, by all means get something to eat and savor it.
What ideas do you have? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.