Hunger and Satiety – Clueing into What Your Body Is Telling You

Intuitive eating
Healthy eating
Girl eating a sandwich with wind blowing her hair

The new diet trend this year is: NO DIET. If you hadn’t heard this already, now you know. Diets have been around for over 100 years and it seems that today, almost everyone has been on at least one diet at some point in their lives. Why is it then, that after many years in existence, and millions of trials, errors and testimonials, no “perfect diet” has been found? Well, it just may be that, and excuse me if this sounds crazy, no perfect diet exists. If it did, everyone would do it and get the results they wanted. Healthy eating does not look the same for each individual – it depends on likes, dislikes, culture, health conditions, schedule and more. Instead of trying to find the right quick fix of “I can’t eat this or that” let’s focus on the hunger and satiety signals that our body is sending us – these are critical for those wanting to lose weight or maintain it. In order to do this, here are some tips that can be applied widely:

1. Don’t wait until you are starving to eat

Many people think that in order to lose weight, you need to constantly be hungry. This is simply untrue. First of all, being very hungry is not a pleasant feeling and no one would want to support this in the long term. Whatever changes we try and make should be ones we can see ourselves doing long term. Secondly, it seems to be common knowledge that no one should go grocery shopping when starving. When we do, we make impulsive, often unhealthy purchases. Well the same can be said of any dietary decision; if you start eating only when you are starving, you are much more likely to reach for something higher in calories, fat or sugar and eat mindlessly; eat too quickly and finish your plate without savouring your food or listening to what your body is telling you. If you regularly find yourself starving at a particular moment of the day, plan a snack ahead of time so that you can make healthier food decisions all day long.

2. Don’t eat until you are full

In childhood, there is often the unwritten rule that we should always finish our plates (or two). With this generally comes the mentality that we should eat until we are stuffed. In reality, feeling full is one of the clearest indicators that we did not listen to our satiety signals and overate. After a meal, we should be feeling satisfied and energized, not bloated or full. Tell yourself that you should be able to go for a light jog after eating, even if you don’t plan on actually doing it.

3. Stay hydrated

While water won’t magically burn away the fat on your body, even when combined with lemon juice and apple cider vinegar, it will help you better listen to your true hunger. It is not uncommon for people to mistake the signals for thirst, with the signals for hunger. Thinking we are hungry, we may reach for a snack when really all our body needs is a tall glass of water. Keep a water bottle close at hand at all times so you remember to drink regularly and while 2L per day is the average recommendation, individual needs differ. If you feel thirsty, that is often one of the first signs of dehydration.

4. Turn off distractions

Though it may be tempting to curl up on the couch and catch up on the latest Grey’s Anatomy episode with your supper or a snack, this is unfortunately not a great idea when it comes to mindful eating. You’ll be paying more attention to the signals on your screen than the one’s from your body and can easily end up overeating. Additionally, you won’t even appreciate the meal you just had, possibly barely tasting it because your focus will be elsewhere. When it comes to listening to your hunger and satiety, limit the distractions so you can focus on your food.

5. Eat slowly and savour your meal

If you’re the type of person who often sits down to a meal and finishes in five minutes and then waits for others to catch up – hold up! Your body is trying to talk to you. It should take you at least 15 to 20 minutes to complete a meal. Doing this will allow you to better savour your food, appreciate the meal and be more conscious of what your body is telling you. By slowing down, you can ask yourself if you truly are still hungry or feel satisfied.

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist