Starting to eat when you’re hungry helps you know when to stop eating

In my last blog, we looked at the first of the three most common reasons why women have difficulty knowing when to stop eating once they’ve started, which are: 1) making up for deprivation, 2) not being hungry to begin with, and 3) eating for emotional reasons. In this blog, we’ll concentrate on how important it is to wait until you’re physically hungry to start eating.

Women who have dieted a lot have learned to ignore hunger. They either endure hunger pangs until they pass or, more commonly, they avoid ever feeling physical hunger at all. They fear that feeling physically hungry will lead to wanting to eat more food than they believe is appropriate.

Sadly, this sets women up to completely unlearn the very natural way in which God created for us to relate to food – that eating is triggered by physical hunger (for example, see Matthew 12:1), and the satiation of that hunger is how we know we’ve eaten enough.

You’ve seen this in babies and toddlers. If they’re not physically hungry, they don’t eat, no matter what you try to tempt them with. You’ve seen this with naturally slim people (mostly men), who turn their noses up at dessert if they feel full. This is what is normal and how we are “programmed” to relate to food. Read Proverbs 27:7a:

He who is full loathes honey… (NIV)

Waiting to eat can be challenging because of set mealtimes and social pressures, but when you do wait until you are physically hungry, the rewards are great. Food tastes better. You’re able to determine what your body is actually craving. And, very importantly, if you start out hungry, then you’ll feel the hunger diminish and thereby know when you’ve eaten enough. If you weren’t hungry to begin with, then your hunger was already satisfied before you started, so there will be no signal to tell you you’ve eaten enough.

The process of relearning how it feels to be just the right amount of hungry to start eating and just the right amount of “full” to stop eating before hitting over-full took me about 20 months! And I did become larger during this trial-and-error period. I had to overeat to see how that felt in order to realize it wasn’t how I wanted to feel. Eventually, once I got back in touch with hunger and its satisfaction, I went down a few sizes and have stayed about there ever since. That was 27 years ago. Since then I have very rarely eaten past the point of comfortably satisfied. And that’s in large part due to the fact that I rarely start eating unless I’m truly physically hungry.

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