Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. These guidelines may be easy to understand but are definitely harder to follow. The idea of “eating mindfully” is a new trend in the weight management world. The concept draws on our innate ability to listen to our body’s signals of hunger and fullness. However, many of us have stopped listening to these signals a long time ago and have a hard time unscrambling the messages.

One step towards clearly hearing and understanding these signals is to first recognize what they are in their physical form. What exactly do I physically feel when I am truly hungry? Some examples are feeling irritable, an emptiness in your stomach, a gnawing feeling, grumbling in your stomach, headache, shakiness and inability to concentrate.

When we are stimulated into feeling hungry by an outside stimulus, such as the smell of dinner cooking, or seeing donuts in the break room or watching someone else eat, we can have the illusion we are hungry. It may be more a stimulation of our appetite than a true hunger. Removing yourself from the situation for a moment to evaluate your physical symptoms of hunger can help you to determine if the motivation to eat is based on our eyes or your stomach. Some useful tips are to determine your level of true hunger before encountering the stimulus:
-sitting in the car before walking into the house for supper
-take a moment to walk out of the kitchen to determine how hungry you are (ex. in the bathroom) and thus honestly determining how big you portions should be for the meal.
-being honest with yourself regarding the last time you ate (was it only an hour ago?)

If you are still not sure if you are truly hungry, wait 20 minutes before eating. If the symptoms do not go away and get worse, you body is likely asking to be fed.

Knowing the signs of fullness is also important. How do you know when you are full? Again, observing yourself and recording your personal physical signs can be quite eye opening. Feeling full and satisfied after a meal is not the same as feeling bloated or stuffed and ideally, by listening to fullness signals, those signs of overeating will be avoided.
If you are not sure if you are full with the quantities you have eaten, give yourself time to digest. It is likely that in 20 minutes you will feel satisfied. REMEMBER, if you are hungry later, you have the right to eat.
Take the time to measure your level of fullness halfway through the meal.

Only by practicing listening to your body do the messages of hunger and fullness become decoded. It takes practice but in the end, your body is the best determinant of how much food you need!