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Hunger

Lesson 5 Chapter 3

Welcome to Mindful Eating: A Practice. This is Class 2: Hunger.

I invite you to give yourself the gift of this class by removing any extra distractions. Allow yourself to be comfortable and to fully arrive so that you can be present and tuned in to the conversation we're about to have. It may be helpful to have a journal, a writing instrument nearby so that you can reflect upon the questions posed in the session.

Let's begin with another simple mindful exercise. Take a deep inhale in and release a full exhale out. Feel your feet on the floor, your seat on the chair and inhale, filling yourself all the way up with breath. Exhale, releasing your breath. Three more deep breaths on your own. In through your nose. Out through your mouth.

Notice the sensation of each breath in and each exhale out. Notice your ability to focus on your breath. If it's easy or hard, Just let it be. Inhaling. And exhaling. Giving yourself a moment to connect to your truest nature. To arrive fully into this class.

Let's jump into this class with a video by Happify and it's narrated by Sharon Salzberg. In this video, we learn about how mindfulness allows us to see our thoughts just as they are beginning. 

Mindfulness allows us to know what we're thinking when we're thinking it

And this is powerful to know what you're feeling as you're feeling it.

And to put this into perspective, this is what helps us choose what to strengthen about ourselves, what attributes and characteristics and values and what to bring forward into action in our lives. And it also allows us to choose what we are ready to let go of. So, think of this in terms of mindful eating. Mindfulness can free us from being at the mercy of our old eating habits. Mindfulness practice can release us from our old ways of thinking about food and our body and even old ways of being around food and eating. Let's take a look.

Mindfulness and self-compassion allow us to begin again. Each and every time we forget. That's right. We all forget to be mindful and that's okay because kind awareness is actually the first step on the path of change. So, if you can approach your mindfulness practice with a sense of kind awareness first, you're on the first step to the path of change. Remember, mindfulness is simply being aware of your present moment to moment experiences. And when you're not aware with kind awareness you gently sweetly bring yourself back to that awareness again.

Mindfulness is linked with kindness and compassion. This awareness is non-judgmental. There's no story or need to direct what you're feeling or thinking. There is a sense of patience, gentleness, and nurturing attribute of being kind and compassionate towards yourself, towards your thoughts, and towards the emotions you are experiencing in each and every moment.

When we are acting from a place of self-criticism, we can actually drive forward negative behaviors like overeating or bingeing. However, when we are operating from a place of self-compassion, we're much more likely to be tuned in to what it is that we truly need. Mindful eating begins with the question, "Why am I choosing to eat? Or, am I hungry?" And then with loving compassion, responding to your body's needs whether that be with food and nourishment or if it is filling an emotional need.

Last week in the last class, we talked about why we eat and why diets fail us. We learned that being mindful will re-teach us about instinctive eating, eating instinctively to fuel our lives. Take a moment now and consider and contemplate, perhaps write the answers down in your journal, what did you learn from the awareness and journaling exercise? What did you learn from the question, what does the life you crave look like?

Remember, this is your intention for how you want to live your life each day. What would you love to do that your current relationship with food is preventing you from doing now? What patterns arose? What patterns did you notice if any came up? What were your big takeaways? Any big "aha" moments that you had this past week? Consider any frustrations or challenges as you became more aware of your old habits.

And take note of the resources you've discovered. Are you using these resources? In what ways are they helping? Here's another question to consider. Can you imagine eating when you begin to feel the slight pangs of physical hunger? Checking in with how your empty stomach feels and then selecting a variety of foods that fulfill your hunger that fuel your wellbeing and foods which are satisfying.

It's very common for individuals to not be so sure of what physical hunger actually feels like. It can be common to feel like you eat all the time. And look at our lives. There's always an opportunity to eat. We eat when we're stressed. We eat when we have a craving for something sweet. And then there's all the family gatherings, the holidays, the social time around food and drink. It's very easy to feel out of control or to eat when we feel lonely, bored, scared, angry, or even frustrated. 

​Visualize yourself checking in with how empty your stomach feels and then seeing yourself selecting foods that will fulfill your hunger, nourish your body, and are also satisfying.

In her popular TEDx talk VIDEO, Eve Lahijani shares what it's like to learn to listen to yourself and reminds us how difficult that can be. Most of us have an unnatural relationship with hunger, but the importance of learning to listen to your body, especially when it comes to our relationship with food and hunger, is the essence of mindful eating. Take a moment and reflect upon what physical hunger feels like for you.

And now pause and contemplate you eating when you begin to feel the slight pangs of physical hunger. Visualize yourself checking in with how empty your stomach feels and then seeing yourself selecting foods that will fulfill your hunger, nourish your body, and are also satisfying.

Try this exercise. Make a fist. Take a good look at it. You probably know that this is about the size of your stomach and when you eat, when you ingest foods and beverages, your stomach expands much like a balloon filling with water. And think about it, what happens when you overfill a balloon. Take a moment and reflect on the physical and emotional sensations that happen to you when you overeat.

It can be helpful to reacquaint ourselves with hunger cues. When we think of our stomach similar to a fuel tank, what would happen if you ran out of fuel? How do you feel when you're running on empty? And what things do you do when you're out of nourishment? What do you tend to grab to eat? What do you tend to eat when you've run out of fuel? And how do you want to eat? When you're running on empty and you have nothing left in you, how do you eat? Do you eat quickly? Ravenously? Do you grab the first thing you see or pull over to the first fast food restaurant you find? How do you eat when you're running on empty?

Very much like the gauge on a fuel tank, you can practice using a numbering system to help you determine your sense of emptiness, your sense of a just right feeling, what it feels like to you to be a little too full, way to full or even stuffed. Just like on a fuel tank gauge, consider 0 as being empty and 10 or so would be full and the gas would just splash out and be useless.

In your journal or on your mind, draw the numbers 0 through 10 in a row or in an arch. You can even refer to our hunger's scale. At what number do you think you might want to plan on eating and at what number do you think you might want to stop eating.

Let's consider the first point. At what number do you think you might want to plan on eating is probably right around 3 or 4, when you're feeling hungry or even neutral. Why? Because this is when you have a most steady train of thought. You have an energy flow to create healthy food. You have the patience, the wherewithal to be more mindful and present. If you went too low, the physical sensations become too uncomfortable and we tend to make decisions that aren't as healthy for us.

What number do you think you might want to stop eating? Probably when you're feeling satisfied or even full. Right around 5, 6, and 7. If you wait too long until you're already feeling stuffed or bloated, you've gone too far. Remember, it can take about 20 minutes for our bodies and brain to register how full we really are.

The key point to remember is setting an intention of how full you want to be before you start eating. It can be helpful to create a speed bump on your plate with the intention of stopping before you finish. Give yourself time to check in with your fullness level. Give yourself time to pause and settle and really feel the physical sensations of your body. By turning your awareness to this practice, you'll become better skilled at identifying your hunger and fullness cues.

What would happen when you've determined you're not actually physically hungry but you're craving food, or you want to eat? What happens then? What do you do next? Cravings are an indication that we need something but that something cannot be found in a box of ice cream. When cravings strike, here's a tip. Pause. Breathe. Connect with your body and notice, what do you really need? You could be asking yourself, "Am I bored, tired, lonely, angry, or thirsty?" When craving strike and you pause and you reconnect with your body and you identify what you're really needing, you are acting like a detective and you're honestly assessing what's really going on.

Continue gently asking yourself, "What do I really need?" Practice and see if you can get to what you're really hungry for. Perhaps it's a change of scenery or a hug or maybe what you really need is a nap or a moment to yourself. Maybe instead of food, what you really need is to simply take a break from doing or thinking.

We know that food will not meet emotional needs. And we know it's not a real solution. We've all been there and having a very strong craving to eat something is a normal human condition. Take a moment now and contemplate to yourself or write down in your journal, what could you do the next time you experience a craving? 

​Mindful eating is also about knowing your physical hunger cues and knowing what you really need when you're not hungry.

Consider emotional hunger, sometimes called head hunger. What are your true needs? And what about social hunger, those things that are expectations from others? Food pushers or the food looks so good or even social drinking. The next time you experience these environmental triggers, ask yourself, what could you do differently to fulfill your true need? Ask yourself, how might you redirect your attention until you are physically hungry? How might you reframe your thoughts?

There are many ways for you to practice increasing your ability to be mindful and to improve your mindful eating habits. Here are some practices to get you started. Before eating, give yourself a number for your hunger. Give your hunger a number and practice being aware of how full you are getting while you're eating.

Remember, it takes 20 minutes for your body to recognize it's getting full. At the same time, also practice giving your fullness signals and sensations a number too. Practice exploring the ways in which you fill your true needs. Maybe explore doing something else when you're not hungry. Practice mindful breathing. In fact, practice 5 minutes of intentional breathing. Be compassionate as you sense your body and notice your thoughts and your moods with loving kindness and without a sense of judgment.

Practice being mindful throughout your day, taking a few conscious breaths, especially when you notice the very first edge of irritation or emotional discomfort. Practice coming back to the present moment again and again through noticing your breath. Noticing your posture and then purposely expand your view to take in your surroundings.

Take some time to write in your journal, why you are eating, when you are eating, what you are eating, how you're eating, and how much you're eating, and where you use your energy. And remember, do this with an act of kind awareness. Practice exploring ways to fill your true needs. Try doing something else when you're triggered to eat. And remember, continue to research resources on mindful eating that can support your individual needs. 

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