One key to freedom from overeating is moving away from artificial structures for eating (dieting, counting calories or points, etc.) and instead relying on the natural physical cues that tell us when to eat, what to eat, and when to stop eating. Young children automatically respond to physical cues regarding hunger and its satiation, but many women start ignoring these cues as they become more and more reliant upon external triggers, such as meal times and diet programs. With practice, because this is part of our design, we can return to a more natural way of relating to food based on internal cues that are as instinctive as knowing when to pee or nap.
There are a variety of physical cues that tip women off to their hunger. Although there is not a vast variation in how hunger feels from person to person, there are very unique nuances to each person’s sense of physical hunger. Just to give you some ideas of what to look for, here are a few descriptions of hunger that Weight of Grace group members have given:
- I start feeling a little tired and notice it’s been a while since I last ate. Then I wait a few minutes and I feel that yearning feeling in my lower chest and stomach. That’s when I’m hungry but not too hungry.
- If I get a little shaky, I’ve waited a little too long to eat.
- My stomach starts rumbling, but sometimes that’s nothing. When it stops rumbling and then I get a feeling in my mouth and throat that feels like food will make it go away, then I know I’m hungry.
- I feel an emptiness in my stomach, almost like it’s caving in a little.
These are comments women have made about feeling they’ve had enough to eat:
- The emptiness is gone.
- The food stops tasting as good as it did at first.
- There’s a feeling in my throat that another bite will be too much.
- There’s no more sense of aching or weakness. I feel good, energized.
Sometimes it’s difficult for women to concentrate all the attention on themselves that’s required to discover how hunger and satiation feel for them. They consider this too self-centered or selfish. However, it’s really a way to eventually no longer have to worry about every bite of food they eat. The investment now is worth it because of the freedom for years to come.