The problem with eating when you’re hungry, and stopping when you’re full
You will have inevitably heard people say “Just eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re full!”
And I’m here to say to those folks: “What the blummin’ hell are you on about?”
In a very nice manner of course.
Because, I’m sure people who say that are well meaning. And I’m also dead cert on the fact that they may not have any eating issue to speak of. Never had to lose a lot of weight, never binged or restricted, never sought extreme comfort from food and at the same time used food to punish themselves. They probably have never felt the starvation feeling you get from inexplicable cravings that happen no matter how much you eat. And it’s likely they’ve never feared food or obsessed about it at the same time.
But when an emotional eater or dieter says to themselves “Why can’t I just stop eating?” They are prescribing to a way of thinking about food that has no relevance to them at all. They’ve absorbed the common ‘eat when you’re hungry & stop when you’re full’ credo and think that it applies to them.
Because for an emotional/over/binge eater there is almost no such thing as belly hunger. Instead hunger for them can be anything from feeling:
- Wound up
- Had enough
- Wants to shut down
- Feeling totally worthless
Some more practical minded people out there will say “It’s because you have eaten carbs and you are having blood sugar issues!”
And they could be right of course. In fact starchy or stodgy carbs that are refined actually do release some feel good chemicals from the gut, like serotonin, and they can also create a dopamine response in the brain (the want-it-again chemical). Carbs affect insulin which affects weight gain and also can play a part in the control of hunger and fullness.
All this does need to be taken into consideration.
But for the most part, people tend to ignore the mindset and just go for the food-fix.
This isn’t the Eat Happy Way. I do look at food, and believe we can inform ourselves here but I’m more about the mindset.
You see, eating a salad with salmon doesn’t automatically stop you from saying hateful things to yourself no matter how filling it is for your actual stomach.
You can feel nervous and crappy even after a few days of eating green smoothies and natural whole fats.
Food will play a huge role in helping to balance out a lot of your inner wobbly feelings, which is awesome. But you have to put in the mental work too.
No diet book talks about this.
At the end of the day, how can you even really change your eating at all, when you feel absolutely pants?
So here’s what I say to my clients: Thank your hunger.
Your cravings are amazing – because they will be a doorway for you to experience so much about yourself. And your hunger is there to teach you. It is a free baromoter you’ve been given that alerts you to the fact that something needs to be looked at.
What you need is kindness and bravery.
I am feeling like eating SO much today.
This feeling has gone on for a long time now, maybe I need to pay attention to this.
This is simple when written out like this.
But have you ever actually done this? I bet not many times, because it can be scary! You start to fret about what’s underneath. What’s there waiting to come out?
Well – you are going to have to find out.
Because bogeymen are far scarier when you have your back turned to them. You need to turn around and face it.
When you do that something amazing happens, the scary feeling becomes softer and more gentle all because it has been seen.
So don’t think “Why am I always hungry, this is rubbish! I wish I could eat like a thin person and be full!”
Think: This hunger is here to teach me something. I’m going to sit with it, and see what comes up.
I teach a really simple idea called Time Structure in my eBook The Mindset Reset that will show you how to apply this step in more detail.
Until then – it’s okay to be hungry. Change your eating if you must, but please don’t ignore your inner self.