Many of us are no longer tuned in to our hunger and satiety signals. We eat when we’re not really hungry, and keep eating even when we’re full. For most of us the signals are still there, we just need to fine-tune our reception.
When we were babies we cried when we were hungry and stopped eating when we’d had enough. Our bodies told us when to eat and how much – and we paid attention (well, we didn’t really have much else to do). But as soon as we could hold a fork, many of us were told to clean our plates and eat veggies to get dessert. While at school our hunger and satisfaction had to fit into a strict by-the-bell schedule. And as adults, social occasions have added to the grey noise – prompting us to eat and drink just because it’s friendly to do so.
Feelings of hunger and satiety are probably the biggest influence on what we eat and how much. It’s that simple. Noticing satisfaction can help us all to eat less and hopefully enjoy more. You might have heard that it can take 20 minutes to know when you’ve eaten enough. This is because most of the satisfaction we feel when we eat happens in our heads rather than our bellies.
While you can physically feel full due to the stretch of your stomach, the more powerful fullness feeling comes from our heads. Hormones are released when nutrients from the food you eat hit your bloodstream, then travel to your head to alert your brain that “all is good; body is feeling fine”.
So, the best thing you can do is to slow down when eating, and give your brain chemicals time to kick in.
- Put your fork down between each bite.
- Eat with friends and family and you’ll naturally slow down to tell a story or respond to one.
If you can’t wait for the brain chemicals to hit, pay greater attention to your physical signals:
- Notice when your chest and belly expand.
- Notice the pressure on your waistband (if you’re wearing something with a waistband).
Look out for these signs, and when you notice them, take a break or a sip of water; wait a while. You might start to get that satisfaction.