Are you really hungry?
It’s 10:00 am; I’m sitting at my computer pounding away on the keyboard. Dammit…here it comes again, I think. Trying to ignore it is akin to playing an annoying game of whack-a-mole with my mind. The urge continues to crest. I stop and contemplate—should I or shouldn’t I?
Wait a second Melanie, it can’t possibly be hunger, you just ate breakfast a couple of hours ago!
Has this ever happened to you? Like clockwork, you notice a strong impulse to eat at almost the same time every day. You’re not quite sure if it’s hunger, but when you stop to examine it a little closer, you’re pretty darn sure it isn’t. Why then, are those corn chips calling your name? An even more pressing question…how do you shut them up?
I like to refer to these bouts of non-hunger eating urgency as my “Danger Zones.” They come to visit almost every day at 10:00 am and 2:00 pm.
When do your Danger Zones pay you a visit?
In order to successfully overcome them, you must first identify the times of day they are most likely to strike.
Next, let’s make sure you really aren’t hungry. What I want you to do is ask yourself out loud: “Am I hungry?”
It’s very important that you ask this question out loud—don’t skip this part or ask it in your head. There’s something transformational about hearing the question in your own voice, out loud. It commands respect and truthfulness. Whenever I’m faced with a bout of false hunger, and I ask this question out loud, I absolutely can’t lie! The answer is always a definite no. I’m not hungry!
If on the other hand, it’s 10:00 am and your answer is yes, I am hungry, think back to breakfast. First, did you even eat breakfast? If not…duh! It’s probably real hunger. If you did eat breakfast, was it a carbohydrate-heavy meal like cereal and milk, toast, a blueberry muffin, a pumpkin spice latte or a bowl of oatmeal? If so, it could possibly be hunger.
You see, because high carbohydrate foods cause your blood sugar to spike, the effect is a rush in insulin production to bring your blood sugar back down to a normal level. This often results in what I call “rebound hunger”, and is the reason I traded in my morning bowl of oatmeal years ago for a satisfying protein and fat-rich smoothie or an Egg & Avocado Breakfast Bowl (see below for the simple recipe!).
When it’s false hunger I’m experiencing, there’s an important game changing step that I take: I give myself permission to eat if I really want to. This is so important because as soon as you forbid yourself from eating, guess what happens? Yep! Game on—you’re going to eat.
When I grant myself permission to eat, I say something like this:
“OK Mel, you’ve determined you aren’t hungry. But if you decide you want to eat anyway, it’s OK. Before you eat however, let me ask you this…will those corn chips bring you peace of mind?”
Dammit again—the answer is always no.
So what can you do to be more proactive around your Danger Zones? First, I want you to make friends with them. That’s right—start to see your Danger Zone as a welcomed guest who is there to make you stronger. Don’t push it away; otherwise it’ll just get louder and more persistent.
Next, fill the time with a supportive habit. I find the simple act of preparing myself a hot cup of green tea always seems to work. You could also try a nice warm cup of lemon water. What you’re doing here is acknowledging your false hunger. It’s like saying: I see you and now I’m about to honor you with a nice detoxifying beverage. It’s just like inviting a guest into your home for a cup of coffee.
Next, as you sit and sip on your tea, see if you can uncover the reason behind the compulsion to eat when not hungry. For me, I’ve come to the realization that when I’m procrastinating beginning a new task or project, I tend to turn to food. Nine times out of ten, the simple act of shining a light on the cause is enough to quiet your false hunger.
Finally, visualize yourself as someone who is in control around food and refuse to see yourself any other way. In other words, live with the end in mind by behaving as if you already are the person you wish to be.
Let’s recap the four steps to conquering your Danger Zones:
- Identify your Danger Zone times. (i.e. 10 am, 2 pm, 9 pm)
- When the clock strikes Danger Zone, ask yourself out loud: Am I hungry? If you are…eat! If not, fill the time with a supportive habit, like sipping on a cup of hot tea.
- Contemplate the reason behind this false hunger and shine a light on it.
- See yourself as someone who is in control around food and behave as if you are that person.
Mel’s weekly food pick:
Pete & Gerry’s Organic Free Range Eggs
Pete & Gerry’s free range hens live in spacious barns, with pasture access, where they can move around as they please, lay their eggs in a nest, scratch, and roost. Their free range hens can act like chickens! I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather eat an egg from a happy hen like this:
Because they eat a diet natural to hens, free range eggs tend to contain more omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin D and vitamin E than non-free range eggs.
Note: “Cage-free” does NOT mean free range. It just means the hens aren’t confined to cages! Most cage-free hens live in very large flocks that can consist of many thousands of hens who never go outside.