We have all been guilty of eating when we are not really hungry. For example have you ever grabbed a sack of cookies and downed them with a glass of milk but felt no satisfaction afterward? Or have you found yourself staring into space at work and all at once you just want something to eat? You do not feel hungry, you just want to eat. The truth is you may have eaten for a reason other than your body needing nourishment. Michelle May, M.D., the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat, says we need to pay attention to signals for hunger before we eat.
Do you ever down a snack and feel zero satisfaction afterward? Or find yourself wanting to eat while staring off into space at work? Then there’s a good chance that you’ve eaten for a reason other than your body needing nourishment. “Hunger is your body’s fuel gauge,” says Michelle May, M.D. “The trick is to pay attention to the signals for hunger before you eat. It’s like checking your fuel gauge before getting off the highway for gas.” Dr. May suggest trying this:
Pause Before You Eat
“The key is awareness. When you feel like eating, always pause in that moment between wanting to eat and actually eating.” This is where you’ll figure out if you’re hungry or just bored, tired, stressed, or thirsty. May says you shouldn’t necessarily be eating every two or three hours like some experts suggest—only when you’re truly hungry—but that you can check in every two or three hours if you’re busy and often forget to eat until you’re starving. “Letting your body get to the point of famished is also dangerous,” she says.
Do a Body-Mind-Heart Scan
You can look to three different areas to determine whether you need to eat or whether you just want to eat: “I recommend doing what I call a body-mind-heart scan,” she says. For body, May says you should start scanning from head to toe and just notice the various sensations in your body. Often tension, like in the neck and shoulders, can signal anxiety or stress, not hunger. For mind, if your productivity is down and you find yourself wondering about what’s in the break room or where you’ll eat your next meal, you’re probably not hungry, you might just be bored. For heart, listen to your emotions. Are you feeling tired from a late night out or stressed about a work deadline? Your anxiety might be provoking “head hunger,” says May. “Do this before you start to eat,” she says. “If you’re not truly hungry, you’ll start to eat and not feel satisfied [since you’re not addressing the true root of the problem], causing you to eat more and more.”
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