One of the most important things you can do in order to stop overeating, lose weight, and get healthy is to cultivate a mindful awareness of your body during mealtimes. This way you will get to know how your body reacts to different types of food, and also start to identify true physical hunger, as opposed to cravings or emotional hunger.
How many times do you really feel hungry when you eat? How many times do you stop eating as soon as you feel satiated? If you go out to a restaurant, are you really still hungry for desert after you’ve finished your starter and main course? Or do you simply wish to savour another tasty dish?
Why do we overeat?
There are many reasons we eat, other than true hunger. It may be to satisfy an emotional desire, for comfort, relaxation, or stimulation. It might simply be for ‘something to do’, or because it just tastes nice. It could be our bodies continually searching for certain vitamins and minerals, due to being fed nutritionally poor foods.
Beware processed foods!
Processed foods are designed in such a way as to stimulate our taste buds and make us want more and more. Profits have to be maximised after all, so manufacturers go to great lengths to chemically encourage us to eat as much food as possible, regardless of whether this is good for our figure, health, or well-being. Foods are adulterated in many ways and a vast range of additives are used to fool our senses into thinking we have to continue to eat… and eat…and eat. This makes it a real challenge to stop overeating. They even have the audacity to brag about it and use it in their marketing – ‘Once you pop, you just can’t stop’!
Fear of hunger
Many people are afraid of hunger. In certain times or cultures this fear is rational; after all, food is necessary for our survival. But for those of us who are lucky enough to live in a time and place in which food is plentiful, this fear is largely unfounded. For myself, I am glad to say that I have never had to experience what it feels like to be unsure of when my next meal will appear. I can only imagine what it was like in my parents’ generation for example, when they lived on food rations throughout the war years.
Examine your hunger
How do you feel about hunger? When you are next feeling hungry, take a few moments to look inside and examine your feelings. Do your feelings make sense to your current life? Are they perhaps an evolutionary throwback, or even thought patterns and belief systems picked up from your parents, or grandparents?
Befriend your appetite
Start to make friends with that hungry feeling. Tell yourself it is just your digestive system gearing up and getting ready to fully assimilate your next meal. Remind yourself that when you eat with a good appetite your body is more prepared and able to take in nutrients more effectively. Reassure yourself that food is in plentiful supply, whenever you really need it. Breathe deeply. Have a drink of water (feelings of thirst are often misinterpreted as hunger).
The pain and discomfort of overeating
Bear in mind that the short-term discomfort of physical hunger caused by waiting a little longer than usual before we eat is nothing compared to the pain and disease caused by overindulgence, or eating when the body is not truly ready for food. Think of the discomfort caused by all the various forms of indigestion. Millions of pounds are spent each year in the UK on various ‘remedies’ for indigestion, when many problems could be cured easily, naturally, and for free – simply by cultivating an awareness of our bodies and eating accordingly.
Now, I am not saying that we should wait until we are absolutely ravenous before we eat something – that can cause problems of its own. I am simply advocating a mindful approach of noticing your hunger creep up, and allowing it to build a little so that you are really ready to eat and enjoy your food.
I use hypnotherapy and other natural therapies to help with weight loss, food cravings, and emotional eating. If you feel you need a little help in practicing mindfulness and identifying your body’s signals, click HERE to enquire about working with me.
Lisa Murphy is a hypnotherapist & counsellor based in Glasgow, who specialises in anxiety, stress, and weight management.