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Friday, 1 July 2016

Hunger Is Not A Sign To Snack

Healthy eating is obviously about putting the right kinds of food in your body, but it’s also about having the right attitude to food.

Food plays too many roles in our lives. We use it to cheer us up when we’re sad or bored and to communicate the kind of person we are.

To be a healthy eater means eating for the right reason: hunger. It’s time to rediscover the feeling of hunger. An easy way to do this is to stop snacking and start having three proper meals a day.

Studying the behaviour of overweight and obese people, I often hear them say they overeat because they feel hungry between meals.

But they’re not really hungry — they’re getting hungry. It’s natural and not something to panic about if you’re eating a proper breakfast, lunch and dinner. It just means you’ll really enjoy your next meal.

Eating when you’re hungry is a nice feeling. I’ve found that it’s only when people don’t eat proper meals that they want snacks.


Remember that hunger isn’t just a physical process to do with how full or empty the stomach is — feelings of hunger essentially come from the mind. So if you crave something and feel you can’t think straight until you’ve had it, it’s worth exploring what is going on psychologically.

People like to think cravings are biological or due to an ‘addiction’, and tell themselves they ‘need’ a chocolate bar. In fact, it’s not the actual food they crave, it’s the meaning they have wrapped around the food. Chocolate represents a distraction, a break from work or a treat after a hard day.

Craving episodes last only a few minutes, so distract yourself — chat to a colleague or take a walk — then see if you still feel so desperate for it.
Last year, psychologists at Plymouth University and Queensland University of Australia reported that playing the computer game Tetris for three minutes reduces the strength of cravings for food and soft drinks. They suggested that during a craving, people visualise food they are thinking about — a visual task such as Tetris can disrupt this.


Many people weaken at the sight of a shiny eclair or a basket of fries. But a good way to resist is to think about how you’ll feel afterwards — guilty, overly full and wishing you hadn’t.
Psychologists call this ‘anticipated regret’ — a technique shown to be effective for changing health behaviour such as exercise and food choices.

You could even picture your liver struggling to digest that food or the pockets of fat in your tummy or thighs desperate to suck up the calories.

If you embed that image in your mind, linking it to the food, you won’t want it the next time it’s winking at you from the shop window.

Even better is to think about how wholesome and smug you’ll feel after eating something healthy. I never liked running, but after doing a charity run following a friend’s death, I started doing it more regularly.

What motivates me is to think of the smug feeling I’ll have when I’ve finished. Don’t frame it in your mind as a loss — frame the healthy choice as a gain. You’ll feel proud of yourself for looking after your health.

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