Monday, June 10, 2013

When “don’t get too hungry” backfires

Open any fitness magazine and you’re likely to read, “eat small, frequent meals” and “don’t let yourself get too hungry”. These aren’t the worst pieces of dietary advice.   “Everything in moderation” probably holds that title. However, eating frequency and grazing has been taken to an extreme. This has resulted in most of us having no clue when we’re hungry because we’re never really anywhere close.

I have clients admitting “I’m scared of being hungry” or “my friends joke I never miss a meal.” I’m certainly not advocating stomach growling (there was actually a Christian weight loss program I reviewed a few years ago with some sort of a “love the growl” slogan, I swear) or starvation. And yet we need to be in touch with what our bodies need and not simply eating and “feeding” preventively.

First, regularly assess your hunger. A 1-10 scale works nicely. If 1 is very little hunger/satiated and 10 is feeling faint/not good you want to eat at a 7 or 8. A rule I use with non-vegetarian clients is the “Chicken Test”. If I ask you if you want chocolate or even cheese and crackers, you may say yes. However, these treat foods are appealing regardless of hunger. If I ask you if you want a piece of grilled chicken, you will only accept when you are hungry.

Another exercise is to pick a day and let your appetite determine when you are ready to eat. If you’re worried about your work hours or schedule, simply have your meals prepared (boiled eggs, a salad and nuts aren’t difficult to transport) ahead of time. In the morning, don’t eat at 6am on autopilot if you aren’t hungry. Wait a bit…but not too long, I’d say up to 2 hours. Try to use the 1-10 hunger meter throughout the day.

There are days I’m upper super early and it’s 11am and I decide it’s lunchtime.
Or, if breakfast is a substantial smoothie, it may be 2pm before that mid day meal comes. Don’t push intervals between meals or snacks more than 4 hours at first but learn that your appetite isn’t fixed. And now tell me the diet advice that bugs you the most or if you’re scared of getting too hungry.
“If you pay attention to when you are hungry, what your body wants, what you are eating, when you've had enough, you end the obsession because obsession and awareness cannot coexist.” Geneen Roth

And, the winner of our Smoothie Giveaway/ Socal Detox Powder is Randi


  1. Anything weight watchers says! I hate diets that allow people to work in crap food for the sake of moderation. First, I think it encourages unhealthy eating and the eating of empty calories-one who finds a way to work ice cream or beer in their carefully constructed point system inevitably ends up eating less protein and nutritious food someplace else during the day. Second, if someone is honestly forgoing nutrient rich calories for empty ones, do they ever actually eat just one serving? I like focusing on whole unprocessed foods instead of trying to find a caloric or point based way to fit awful food in my diet.

  2. Andrea@WellnessNotesJune 10, 2013 at 5:36 AM

    I used to eat a bit too often, maybe because there were so many "mini meal" and "don't get too hungry" messages everywhere. When I think of it, I probably never felt hungry...

    Now I listen to my body and eat when I am hungry. If I don't teach an early morning class, I usually don't eat breakfast for a while. I also eat less often during the day.

  3. funny what those messages can do...what do you teach Andrea?

  4. I used to eat little snacks often but now I eat when I begin to feel hungry. :) I think I have tried it all one time or another :)

  5. foodtrainers.blogspot.comJune 10, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    I think "trying it all" is good ayala, we have to experiment and assess vrs assuming there's one right way with food.

  6. I love this post, so much. It's called being intuitive, and we all grow out of it as we age. I love your chicken test idea. I have said in my classes, "think about your favorite healthy food, such as an apple"....if you are acting on a craving you will likely not want the apple, but if you are truly hungry, you will! I'll be sharing this post with my weight loss class, thanks for the material for my weekly motivation post!

  7. Thanks Gina (and loved your ice cream post so there). Intuitive, we have so many outside forces and so much information we definitely grow out of it. Even my kids will be influenced by the yum favor at times more now as older kids than when younger.

  8. I used to (and sometimes still am) terrified of being hungry. I carry snacks with me at all times and used to eat every 4 hours religiously. I realized that I was occasionally overeating by eating when I wasn't very hungry and am slowly learning to listen to my body's hunger signals more. It is very difficult to change though!

  9. Andrea@WellnessNotesJune 13, 2013 at 5:52 AM

    I teach ESL in a community college.

  10. I love this!!! Thanks for sharing :) I really shouldn't eat as
    "preventatively" as I do, but being hungry is NOT a bad thing...Great advice!! I am going to have to try just listening to my hunger cues :)