Feeling Hungry Versus Being Hungry

While not a New Year’s resolution per se, the past few weeks have been devoted to learning to live a healthier lifestyle. Since I started logging my daily food and exercise over at MyFitnessPal, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be and feel hungry.

Instead of eating because I feel like eating, I consider whether I’m actually hungry. This has always been a struggle for me. I have always been more of a person who lives to eat rather than one who eats to live. I think a part of me will always live to eat – I love mixing colors and flavors on my plate, I love trying new recipes, and I think that food is important for social and cultural reasons. But, back to what it means to be hungry and managing hunger.

I’ve been eating filling and nutritious breakfasts. Often, it’s a green smoothie. Sometimes, it’s steel cut oats with cinnamon and peanut butter or peanut butter and banana added while cooking. I’ve taken to eating breakfast much more slowly, so if i start at 8am, I may still be eating at 9am. I have the luxury of eating breakfast at a desk (at home or in the office), so I can take my time.

I may try chocolate chips in my oats next time! Photo taken by StarsApart on Flickr.

Slowing down while eating breakfast has really helped to manage hunger or “hunger,” whichever the case may be. If I do get “hungry” before noon, I drink a diet soda, or some hot green tea, or water, and try my best to wait until noon to start eating lunch. I usually make it and if not, I eat a serving of fruit.

Before I started actively tracking calories (again, this isn’t my first time doing this), if I had the urge to eat, I ate. My morning snacks weren’t unhealthy – often a banana or an apple – but the afternoon snacks would add up. Goldfish, crackers, cheez-its, Luna bars, and so on – healthy snacks in their own right, but my calorie total at the end of the day said I was having too many. And then there was the nightly glass(es) of wine, but that’s for another post.

So, now I’m thinking about each urge to eat. Am I that hungry? Is it worth being that many closer calories closer to my daily goal at this time of day? Or can I wait the hour or two until my next meal? If what I feel is actual hunger – stomach growling hunger – then I eat. If I determine it’s an urge to eat – driven by boredom, or because I need a break from work – then I try to hold off.

This is absolutely easier said than done. Snacking goes hand-in-hand with all of my daily activities. I snack while working  (academic reading, writing, research), I snack while relaxing (TV, catching on blogs), and everything in between.

There is no easy solution to managing hunger and snacking. I’ve decided that often my snacking because I’m “hungry” is driven by boredom or a distraction as something I like doing while I’m doing something I don’t want to do. So, I’m trying to cut out the snacking and only eat meals when I’m truly hungry. And eating them slowly, and enjoying them, and thinking about the flavors and textures.

So I’m trying to ignore my feelings of hunger and instead only eat when I am hungry. This is certainly a learning experience.

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