Reset your Hunger and Fullness scales
Have you ever been so hungry that it becomes uncomfortable and impossible to ignore? Have you ever been so full that you feel like the button is going to pop off your pants? Most of us can probably answer yes to both of these questions. These situations represent the two extreme ends on your hunger and satiety scale. While we should aim to stay somewhere in the middle of this scale, many people have come to draw a positive association with these extremes. You may think if you are extremely hungry then that is good because you have deprived yourself of calories, which should in turn lead to weight loss. On the other end, we think we are not fully satisfied with a meal until we are uncomfortably full, especially when dining out. But do hunger and fullness need to exist as such polar opposites? At Well Powered we believe the answer is no.
Extreme Hunger: Let's take a look at hunger first. When you have reached the point of uncomfortable hunger, your mood starts to change. You may become agitated and lose patience. You may not be able to focus on the task in front of you and even may feel physical symptoms, such as lightheadedness. At this point your ability to make mindful food choices has drastically decreased and you will likely end up grabbing whatever food you can get to quickest (aka convenience food). You also are much more likely to overeat because you may eat in a very fast manner to get rid of these hunger feelings. It takes about 15 minutes for the signals from your stomach to travel to your brain so if you finish everything in front of you in 10 minutes then your brain hasn't yet had the chance to tell you that you are actually full. You may still feel that extreme hunger and want to reach for more food. The end result is consuming more calories than you would have eaten if you had just grabbed a snack when your hunger started to escalate.
Solution: It's ok to feel a little hungry but ignoring hunger for too long can have a negative effect! Carry around quick snacks that you can grab when you are hungry but don't have time for a full meal. Your snacks should always contain protein and/or fat to keep you full longer. Good examples are nuts, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and hard-boiled eggs. If you do have time for a meal, then eat one! Skipping a meal is not going to save you calories because you will just end up eating more at the next one.
Extreme Fullness: Now let's talk about fullness. Extreme fullness if the result of ignoring your satiety cues. It could be because you ate your meal too quickly and didn't allow those signals from your stomach to tell your brain you are full. Or you could willingly choose to ignore the signals because either the meal is so delicious you don't want to stop eating it or you feel the need to clear your plate completely. This feeling of extreme fullness is a sign of overeating and one of the biggest contributors to weight gain.
Solution: You don't need to give up your favorite foods to lose weight, you just need to reset the feeling you want to achieve at the end of the meal. Instead of striving to be completely full, think of being satisfied. Did you enjoy the food? Has your hunger subsided? If you answer yes to these questions then you can end your meal. Stopping periodically and asking yourself these questions throughout a meal can be very helpful. Also, allowing yourself that 15 minutes for your brain to catch up to your stomach can be the best way to practice portion control.
Middle to full: Then there's those that constantly hover around the middle to full range. These people are afraid of feeling hungry at all. You may grab something to eat at the smallest sign of hunger or overeat at a meal because you aren't sure when you will have time to eat again. This fear of hunger can be just as bad because again, you are ignoring your body's cues and are overfeeding it.
Solution: It's important to get comfortable with feeling slightly hungry. Allowing yourself to feel some hunger and realizing that you can make it through can be very empowering. Not to the extreme of the first example but just having the feeling of you could eat but you don't need to is a good place to be.
No matter where you lie on the spectrum, the key is listening to your body. Feed it when it is truly hungry and stop eating when it is full. Your body's signals are your best weight loss tool, so use them!