Do I Eat Only When I'm Hungry?

October 15, 2020

I’ve heard this so many times, “eat only when you’re hungry.”  I definitely advocate for listening to your body.  It self regulates and know what’s good for you and when it’s enough IF you listen.  But I think that eating is so much more than just for hunger.  I think we eat to cover pain (loneliness, stress, boredom, overwhelm, depression, etc.) and to feel joy (celebrations and fun times).  I think that when we treat ourselves like robots, we fail.  Well…because we are NOT robots.  When we give ourselves permission to be human, we actually succeed in weight loss, diet, and health.  It’s the restriction and denial that leave us spiraling south into binging and self-sabotage. 

I see the evidence in my office.  When we tell ourselves to only eat when we’re hungry, we start craving.  And for some, it may lead to binging.  And for the extremes, it can lead to eating disorders.  Let’s recognize that there are other reasons why we want to eat…and it’s absolutely normal:

  • Pleasure/Joy. I love food.  It’s so yummy.  And food with good memories?  Even better.  Don’t take the joy from life.  Grandma’s baking, Thanksgiving, Christmas dinners, cultural and social festivals, all great things we don’t need to give up.
  • Habit. How we eat creates a rhythm for our brain and digestive tract.  Our family eats right on the clock, only because we are starving and it’s our routine (6:30am, 11am, and 5pm).  Apologies to all our friends who had to adjust to us.  Our brain has definitely adjusted to our habits so create habits you’d like to keep.
  • Emotions. We eat during negative times and to celebrate.  This is so normal!  When we accept that it’s normal, we seem to “do better.”  We accept this and move forward with finding better coping skills instead of beating our heads trying to count the perfect calories and feeling like we’ve failed because the strategy isn’t working.  We cannot eat perfect, and do not need to. 
  • Nutritional Deficiency. While in Niger, Africa for over 2 years, I actually gained weight.  Whoa??!!  It’s a country lacking in food.  How can I gain weight?  90% of my diet was carb.  My body kept craving more food and I just couldn’t feed it enough to feel satisfied.  For most of the year, my vegetable was an onion.  I lived on millet and pasta.  If you’re not eating the right foods, you will keep craving.

I think these needs are legitimate.  We can’t just ignore them, otherwise they come back with a vengeance.  Our brain is hardwired to want sugars, salts, fats, and connections with friends.  We can NOT eat perfect.  It doesn’t work.  With all my clients, restriction leads to binging and therefore, weight gain.  Those who subscribe to mainstream diet mentality, struggle forever.  Those who grasp this concept of acceptance but with education, habit change, and mental shifts find themselves much more successful with weight loss and long-term health goals.

If what you’re doing feels hard, maybe it’s not you but your strategy.  We need pleasure.  Change your strategy so it’s not impossible but more of your habit with the acceptance of being human and a need for joy.  

Get a free health consultation. See if this is the right match for you by addressing weigh loss, cravings, emotional eating, balanced diet, disease prevention, and getting to the root cause of what’s keeping you stuck.

For more articles, read www.HappyFoodHealth.com/blog.

~ Samantha Hua, Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach, San Diego, CA