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How to Tell if You’re Really Hungry

By Sara Butler

Hunger is a funny thing; it’s physical as well as mental. Many people eat when they’re not hungry out of boredom, and those extra calories can really add up. The trick to eating when you’re hungry is being mindful of it. Think about what you’re eating as you’re eating it and figure out the difference between the actual signs of physical hunger and emotional hunger. Here are a few ways you can tell the difference and learn to eat more mindfully.

The Difference

The first step to being more mindful about your eating habits is to know the difference between the signs of physical hunger and the signs of emotional hunger. Physical hunger is characterized by:

  • A feeling of hunger in your stomach
  • Eating any food will make it go away
  • It comes on slowly
  • Easy to fulfill

Emotional hunger is normally characterized by:

  • Craving for a particular food
  • Comes on suddenly
  • Hard to fulfill

If you find your hunger is physical then you need to feed it by giving your body good fuel such as a good source of protein or fresh fruits and vegetables. If you find the hunger is emotional, you should try to think of three words to describe it so you can find ways to deal with those feelings. You can take a walk, play a game of checkers or ask someone for a hug. You might be surprised how much better a simple hug makes you feel!

When You Are Eating

Even when your hunger is physical, there are certain things you should avoid doing when you’re eating. Don’t eat in front of the television because that often leads to overeating and mindless munching. Part of eating in a healthy way is to recognize the signals your body is trying to send you when it’s full. If you’ve got something else distracting your brain then you are more likely to miss the signals and eat more.

This is also true when you’re eating out with friends or family. When you’re absorbed in a conversation or with other people who are eating, you are also more likely to overeat. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat out with friends or family, it just means you need to practice mindfulness when eating in these situations. Be present in the moment and try to think about what you’re doing every step of the way to ensure you’re staying on track.

Mindful eating isn’t difficult to do, but it does take practice. The more you can practice the easier it will become and you will find yourself eating less out of boredom or habit and more out of actual hunger – and the benefits to your health when you do that are endless!

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