Have you ever sat in the absolute back seat of a commercial plane? I’m talking about the last row, where the seats don’t recline and you’re right next to the bathrooms.
Well, that’s where I am right now as I write this to you. On this plane, the jets cover the windows, so you can’t even see outside.
I’ve just spent the past 5 days in “The Big D”, (aka: Dallas), mixing some family time with a business trip. I tackled 2 (yes….TWO) big family reunions in one very long weekend. It’s always good to see my family, young and old, who travel from all over to be together for this short spell. There is always waaaayyy too much food, including my grandmother’s homemade ice cream, which when it’s about 100 degrees outside, is the only thing I really wanted to eat. : )
In my nutrition coaching programs, one of the first things I teach is “How to gauge the hunger scale”. And with the incredible amount of BBQ Brisket, Tri-tip, 7 varieties of potato salad, that weird pink fluffy “salad”, 3 different homemade cobblers, banana pudding, a birthday cake for my Great Aunt (who celebrated her 90th by the way…) and of course, homemade Big Red ice cream, this particular hunger scale came in very handy this weekend.
HOW TO MONITOR YOUR HUNGER AND FULLNESS
Most people don’t take the time or even bother to check in to see what’s really going on in their body. They eat because it just happens to be time to eat, or because everyone else is eating, or because some emotion evokes an eat-everything-in-sight moment. This is not a judgment against you (or myself for that matter), but a cold-hard fact. Putting nutrition aside, if you are not at your body’s natural weight, it is because you (your mind) are eating when you (your body) is not hungry.
And a full weekend of buffet style family reunions can be looked at two different ways: one, is of horror, while you eat everything in sight, completely unconscious of your body’s communication… or the other is option is to view it as an opportunity to tune in and listen to the subtle messages your body is giving.
YOUR CHOICE! (Don’t you love free will?)
THE SCALE, from 1-10
1: Get the *&*&%* out of my way…. I. Need. Food. NOW!!!
(just a side note…this is a totally rotten place to be. When you get here, usually it’s a sign of your blood sugar dropping way below normal and you will stop at nothing to get some food in your body. At this point, often consciousness is gone, and it is extremely easy to overeat reaching a 9-10 on the hunger scale in 5 minutes flat…yikes!)
2: Okay…I’m dropping too low, I can really tell I’m hungry.
***Eating somewhere around/between 2-3 is ideal***
3: More than just a little hungry
4: You’re starting to feel a little hungry. It’s just below neutral, so it’s subtle. Nothing crazy here, so if you pay attention, you notice the very subtle feeling.
5: Is “neutral”. You are neither hungry nor full. Maybe this is where you are an hour or two after eating.
6: Is just above “neutral” in terms of fullness.
7: Feelings of satisfaction with the amount of food you’ve eaten. You can tell there’s no more hunger, and feelings of over-eating are also not present
8: This number is easy to get to, when you’ve decidedly moved to a 7, and then even just 1 or 2 bites more and….BOOM…you’ve reached an 8. The fullness factor has increased. (ps… this is not easy to pay attention to if you are hooving food in your mouth at a rapid pace. Slow down grasshopper…. put that fork down. Breathe. Get your monkey mind to connect to that hot body of yours!)
***stopping somewhere between 6-8 is ideal***
9: Oh boy…you’ve ignored (or just flat out didn’t realize) your body’s very subtle clues and have passed the point of no return. : ) Now you’re on the couch ready for a nap.
10: You know the feeling you get when you ate too much dinner, then kept snacking in the evening, and now it’s time for bed and it just hurts to even lay down? It’s like you turn to one side, but your belly stays over there! A very unpleasant feeling, indeed, brought on by unconsciousness and neglecting your body’s very gentle and subtle feedback systems that tell you you’ve had enough. But, it’s ALL good (even the bad)… there’s always tomorrow. : )
Here’s how it works:
- Your body is miraculous and does not fail you. If this belief does not come easy to you, then it will be difficult to believe that your body actually does give you the right messages…it’s just your job to pay attention!
- Start tuning into your body and really listen to the clues it gives. This is difficult at first, but over time becomes easier and natural.
- Each time you are about to grab for food—whether it’s mealtime, snack time, or cravings/compulsions time—ask yourself if you are really hungry, and then give yourself a number from the scale.
- What this does is open your consciousness to decipher what’s really going on inside. Are you stressed? Lack of Sleep? Are you eating because it’s just time? Are you truly hungry?
- Once you dig deep, you might realize you’re not hungry at all! Then you can use your free will to decide if eating whatever it is will serve your body, your purpose, and your greater good.
- Or you might figure out that you are indeed hungry and it’s time to eat.
- If you decided it’s time to eat (you’re below a 5 on our scale), now comes the fun part: Paying attention while you are eating!
- Notice while you are eating if you are on auto-pilot or if you are taking your time. Notice if you can put your fork down occasionally and pause in the middle of the meal. And most importantly, can you notice as you slowly move from below 5 and into the 6, 7, or above range? And more than noticing…can you stop with happiness and content before hitting those higher numbers? If you can’t…why not? What’s going on there?
Look… I realize this isn’t rocket science….
But nevertheless, most people find it difficult to stay conscious enough to let this process occur. Start practicing before the big party, and let it be your guide everyday. In our nutrition coaching programs, this is one of the many methods we use to get you the results you need and deserve.
MY PERSONAL STORY
This might have been my best trip to Texas. As most of you know, I’m not a big fan of deprivation. If you “go on a diet”, there is an equal and opposite binge waiting around the corner for you.
But using this scale and staying present, in the moment, conscious (whatever you want to call it), I enjoyed all the foods from my family, eating when I was hungry, and stopping when I was full. As for my Nana’s homemade Big Red ice cream, the small bowl I savored s-l-o-w-l-y, might have been the best bowl I’ve ever eaten.
Because it’s really not the ice cream I want. It’s what the ice cream represents. It’s the feelings of a hot, humid summer afternoon, sitting on the porch swing, hanging around with my grandmother and family, listening to the kids play, and my great aunt’s laugh. It’s the full realization of the moment, taking it in and savoring every sight, sound, taste, and touch. That’s what I want….and unconsciously eating 3 bowls of Big Red ice cream won’t get me anything but an upset stomach. And most importantly, what I was really craving—connection with my family—would never have happened because I would have been too busy stuffing my face instead of feeding my soul.
And how did I do it, and how can you do it, too?
By getting a little mechanical with your life and implementing a system that works. The hunger scale above combined with mindfulness just plain works. This is the stuff we teach in my nutrition-coaching program. Working with a coach (as I have found out for myself) can literally catapult you into a new level of consciousness.