As a personal trainer and nutrition coach, I hear a lot of hungry excuses. Let's see if any of these sounds familiar: "I'm an emotional eater;" "I eat when I'm bored;" "I eat late at night;" or even "I'm not sure why I eat."
The problem with all of these lies in a simple question: are you eating because you're hungry or because you're emotional, bored, tired or confused? Unfortunately, for the vast majority of us, it's usually the latter.
So, now that we've figured out the problem, what do we do to solve it? Oh!... um, I don't know. I didn't actually have any answers, I was just being hypothetical...
OK, OK, ya got me. Of course I've got some answers. Plus, hypothetical is too big of a word for me to know what it actually means anyway.
The problem lies in our fast and processed food culture. We eat so many "food-like" substances with millions upon millions of dollars of research and development behind them that are specifically designed to make it impossible to become satisfied with the food.
"Once you pop, you can't stop." Indeed, Mr. Pringles, indeed. What the food companies don't tell you is that all this instant food gratification not only makes it nearly impossible to eat a proper portion size, it also begins to mess with the finer hormonal balances in our brain and body that regulate hunger and satiety.
If an individual eats real, whole foods, they can generally rely on their own hunger cues and sense of fullness to know when it's time to eat or time to stop. But when we eat too much of the junk, we lose touch as the hormones and neurotransmitters responsible for these roles have a hard time functioning properly.
Generally speaking, if you're eating quality choices and proper amounts, you should start to feel hunger pangs around 2 to 3 hours after your last meal. By the 4th and 5th hour, you should be ready to eat again. Any quicker, or longer, than those times and you may want to look into having a professional work with your diet.
Also, the next time you're simply starrrrrving and you just have to eat that bag of chips, cookie, or piece of chocolate, stop and ask yourself. Are you actually hungry or are you just bored, tired, emotional, etc.
Oftentimes, just getting up, getting out and getting away from the environment you're in can do wonders for helping to forget all about the offending snack. (Heh heh, "offending snack..." picture a cupcake in handcuffs... whoo boy, too funny)
Try keeping a "hunger journal" as well. Make note of when you're thinking about food and ask yourself if you're stomach is giving you the "hungry red flag" or if it's your brain going "OMG, I'm so bor- err, hungry, I meant hungry!" If you can learn to differentiate between the two, it'll help tremendously.
Until next week, eat if you're hungry, get up and move if you're bored, go for a walk if you're confused, go to bed if you're tired, live fresh and let your stomach do its job, not your brain!
Andy Frisch, NASM CPT, CES, PES, WFS, IFT, NESTA FNC, is a personal trainer and nutrition coach who enjoys working with clients of all shapes, sizes and ages. He currently train clients at Sports Village Fitness in Lebanon, works with clients online at www.FreshEvolutionFitness.com and frequently posts videos on his YouTube channel. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.