Listen to Your Stomach, Monitor Hunger To Lose Weight

GregB Health Guide
  • I don't know when I'm hungry.


    That's this week's realization.


    I am reading Martha Beck's book The Four Day Win. Beck works on weight loss through changing mindsets, attitudes, emotions, etc., then allows the changes in bodily habits to follow.


    One of the exercises she suggests is to estimate how hungry you are several times throughout the day, rather than just at meals. This exercise has several purposes. Increased awareness is one: how hungry am I? Another is distinguishing between emotional hunger and physical hunger. A third purpose is to strengthen your ability to distinguish yourself from your hunger, and thereby decrease your sense of being powerless when it comes to food.

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    I mentioned last week that I'd try this, and this week I did. The result was a useful failure. That is to say, I learned that I don't know when I'm hungry, or how hungry I am. That's useful to know, but makes it hard to try to eat to address my actual hunger.


    Here's how it would work. I picked several times during the day to check in with myself and judge my hunger on a scale from 0 (not hungry) to 10 ("ravenous"). Some of the times were times when I expected to eat. Other times, I checked in when I would have been between meals. As far as I can tell, when I checked in made no difference as far as the accuracy of my estimation.  Whenever I looked inward, the inner dialogue went something like this:


    "How hungry am I?"

    "Hungry? I-hmm. I guess I could eat. Not very hungry."


    "No, seriously. What do I feel in my stomach?"

    "It still feels pretty full. I don't know. A zero? A 1?"


    If I went by these evaluations, the result would always be me eating about three crackers, maybe with a few grapes. That would certainly make me lose weight, but it seems extreme. What's more, once I was eating, if I tried to stop before my habitual limits, I'd get a sharp surge of emotional hunger ("Eat! Eat! Eat, fast!") that wiped out my limited knowledge of my actual hunger.


    In the world outside my head, we kept our new routine of eating heart healthy low fat suppers. I kept my practice of drinking extra water daily, and added a trace of extra fiber to my breakfast juice. I worked out seven days, with the lightest day being 110 minutes of walking and 20 minutes of martial arts. And, I kept having lunches that were too big and snacks that were tasty. When I ate, I often realized after the fact that I'd eaten too much. And my weight didn't change.

Published On: March 25, 2010