I’ve just seen the banner on the Slimming World website promising among other things ‘no hunger’. There are countless diets out there – slimming clubs, self-help books, diet plans offering the answer to your slimming woes; each of them seems to guarantee that you won’t feel hungry. I often find myself responding – why shouldn’t we feel hunger? Surely it’s not something to be frightened of; it’s just your body’s way of saying the fuel needs topping up.
When I used to run weight-loss workshops for the NHS we had a session focusing on hunger and mindful eating. I used to ask groups of clients (all with BMIs in excess of 30) when they last felt hungry – they would all struggle to remember. Some would say at least a few days ago, some would say they weren’t sure if they knew what it felt like, but all would agree that they hadn’t actually felt it ‘today’.
When I talk about hunger I mean true physical hunger, not that desire to eat something or that thought that says ‘its lunchtime’. True physical hunger can be felt in the stomach, it can be categorised by a gnawing empty sensation accompanied by a gurgling; the main point is that it is 100% physical. Maintaining a healthy weight involves being able to recognise this hunger cue and also tolerate it from time to time.
Unfortunately I think we have a real culture these days of ignoring our natural hunger cues. It starts when we’re told as children to ‘finish everything on your plate’ or ‘you won’t get pudding!’ Then as we progress through various education institutions we have to eat at set times i.e. when the bell goes! Add to that the abundance of snacks available literally everywhere; you can be constantly picking throughout the day and never feel hungry. Not to mention ‘all you can eat’ buffets and the desire to get our money’s worth – we end up more used to that stuffed turkey feeling, which some people even aim for. I would argue that if you’re not feeling physically hungry before you eat then how do you know you really need to eat?
So if you’re trying to lose weight, here’s an idea that you may find useful – listen to your body the next time you’re about to eat and ask yourself this question: ‘am I truly hungry?’