Mastering Mindful Eating for Successful Weight Management
Wait to feel physically hungry before eating. Sounds simple, but at first it may be hard. That’s because dieting and chaotic eating patterns have taught you to ignore physical hunger and fullness cues. But just following this one principle – waiting to feel physically hungry before eating – is the foundation of mindful eating (also called intuitive eating) and very likely will improve the way you eat and manage your weight.
First, it’s important to establish structure for the timing and balance of meals. If you consistently eat without listening for hunger and satisfaction cues, you may end up overeating, given the many opportunities to eat most of us face daily. A solid structure that supports nutritional health puts your body back into balance so that your appetite regulatory system can begin to work as intended.
Eat within the first few hours of waking, then every 3 to 5 hours. Ensure that most meals and snacks contain some combination of grains, protein foods, fruits, and vegetables.
Work with a hunger and satiety scale to increase your awareness. Rating your level of hunger or satisfaction helps you determine how to act.
Hunger scale used in mindful eating or intuitive eating
- Ravenous, may have a headache or feel nauseous
- Overly Hungry, may be preoccupied with hunger; very uncomfortable pangs
- Urge to Eat is Strong, sense pangs/gnawing sensation/stomach growling; may experience a slight pressure in the back of the throat
- A Little Hungry, empty or hollow stomach, thoughts drifting to food
- Neutral, no pangs, but not feeling full or satisfied; do not sense food in the stomach
- Feeling the Weight of Food in the Stomach, stomach stretching slightly as a result of eating
- Hunger is Gone, rate of eating slows; experiencing a sense of well-being from having had enough to eat
- Not Uncomfortable, but definitely full; taste, texture, appearance of food may not stand out at this point
- Uncomfortable, a significant stretch to the stomach, perhaps noticing difficulty breathing due to physical stretch, uncomfortable with light activity
- Painfully Full, “couldn’t take another bite,” activity is out of the question.
Effective Weight Management Based on Mindful Eating
Identify your typical hunger & satiety range.
- What number are you at when you eat most meals and snacks?
- How about at the end of meals and snacks?
- Ideally, begin to eat at 3 or 4, when it’s clear your body is requesting food.
- Most of us feel most comfortable when we stop around 7 or 8.
Consider when your hunger and satisfaction is “off.”
- Do you often get overly hungry (1s and 2s)? When? Why?
- Do you eat until stuffed and uncomfortable? When? Why?
- Do you eat when not yet hungry? What triggers this?
- Practice eating within a range that feels right to you.
Internal cues for starting and stopping eating are something we’re born with but often lose over time. By tuning into our bodies’ physical hunger and satisfaction cues, we can begin to return to “normal” eating.