Episode 71 - Eat Already!
The concept of self-nourishment is so important in helping you to identify your hunger and in using your hunger scale. There are times when NOT listening to your body for hunger cues might be your best course of action. This might seem like it goes against the protocol of listening to your body, but in situations where your hunger cues are off-line, it is really a type of self-care in the form of nourishment.
It might be when you are not feeling well but still need nourishment, or when you are in a very stressful situation and still need nourishment. It might be in more benign situations like at parties, holiday meals or when eating out. I also talk about, what I call, "pre-emptive" eating when you know you will not have time for a meal but if you entirely skip eating when you have the chance you will be in a world of trouble at the other end. I also address food pushers and how nothing is ever really an all-or-nothing situation.
Your actionable coaching advice this week guides you to do non-judgmental reflections on why you may overeat or eat when you are not hungry.
Episode #: 71 Eat Already!
You’re Listening to the Keto and Low Carb Success podcast, Episode #71, Eat Already!
Did you know that you don't have to spend money on a diet program or weigh, measure and track your food? What if you could learn to have success by following an easy roadmap that takes you on adventures from learning how to change your mindset so that you can believe in yourself, to learning about what foods work best in your body and why? Join me, Miriam Hatoum, health coach, course creator and author of Conquer Cravings with Keto, as I give you actionable coaching advice that is sure to empower you so that you will finally find peace with food and learn to trust your body’s signals. You’ve got this, girl!
Be sure to go to miriamhatoum.com/resources to get all the free guides to help you along the way. I am in your shoes, my friends, and I wrote these guides for both of us. The link is in the show notes and transcripts.
Oh, and before we start, I want to let you know that the primary purpose of this podcast and the course is to educate and does not constitute medical advice or service, and I’m keeping up with the science as fast as I can so I can share with you the latest breaking research in this area to help you achieve your dreams!
Nourishment as Self-Care
This concept is so important in helping you to identify your hunger and in using your hunger scale. I was so happy to read that “Intuitive Eating is a dynamic interplay of instinct, emotion, and rational thought. This might seem like it goes against the Intuitive Eating protocol of listening to your body, but in situations where your hunger cues are off-line, it is really a type of self-care in the form of nourishment.” (end quote)
Besides your hunger cues being blunted because you have been suppressing them and ignoring them for years because of the diet rules I talked about last week, there are situations such as when you are sick and not feeling well make these cues go off-line, but you still need to eat. Or, if you are an athlete or have one or two intense sessions with exercise, your hunger may be blunted, but you still must nourish your body.
The guidelines are to first, plan your meals in advance. You don’t know in advance if you will be sick, but you can usually tell you are coming down with something, so have your version of comfort foods available. These could be soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, French toast, avocado toast, etc. Do a little shopping if you can, use something like Instacart, or give a grocery list to a friend or family member if you are already not feeling well and can’t get out to shop.
If you are an athlete or are exercising, you do know in advance what makes good meals, so make sure you stay on top of meal planning and grocery shopping.
If you are in the midst of a very stressful situation, make sure you have easy go-to meals that will not upset your stomach. I think that is how comfort foods came about. Who wants a porterhouse steak with all the fixin’s when your stomach is turned upside down from stress. Wouldn’t some soup be so much easier on your stomach?
The guidelines for when your hunger cues are blunted are:
1. The meals and foods must adequately sustain your body.
2. Don’t go longer than four or five hours without eating, regardless of how you are feeling.
3. Have your meal plans match your energy levels – in other words, if you are coming home from a workout, you will not want to cook even if you enjoy cooking.
4. Maybe try to keep up with a pattern, such as a few meals and a snack every day, although this is not necessary.
Similar to, but not the same thing as cues being blunted, is when you need to do some, what I call, pre-emptive eating. This happens a lot in professions such as nursing, teaching, shift work, or if you are in a profession that has meetings all day long with hardly a break. I will speak from my experience as a high school teacher. I had to leave my house about 6AM to beat the 7AM school bus. Lunch was usually about 11:30, and then I might not have gotten another minute until I was done at 3PM or later. Then a commute.
First of all, I didn’t want a big hearty breakfast at 5AM nor did I want to drink smoothies in my car on the way to school. Because of that, I was probably hungry at 11:30 but if you know school lunches, you know you get about 20 minutes – how much could I scarf down without making myself sick? Then I could eat again at my desk before I left, or in the car on the way home – a dangerous situation if I was passing McD’s. I got home hungry and just HAD to eat, and it was usually that “gulping for air” type of eating that I talked about in last week’s episode. Dinner? Who wants dinner if I’ve done all that eating as soon as I walk through the door? But dinner was on the table, and I ate it, hungry or not, and then fell into bed with or without eating again, only to start again the next day. I never unraveled that, and is probably why I was very overweight all the years I was a high school teacher.
Let’s say you are in a position like this, or a nurse or someone who is in meetings all day. You face the same thing. In cases like this, I would say it is okay to eat if you are not hungry because you either don’t know when you will get another chance until your day is done, or you will have only a few minutes to scarf something down while you are at work. Let’s say you are not particularly hungry at 10 AM because you had breakfast at 8, but you know you won’t get another chance to eat until 3. This is when you can have something to sustain you for a few more hours, even if your hunger cue is telling you that you are not in hunger-territory.
This type of eating – and I wish I had it figured out during my teaching years – is absolutely self-care nourishment. Don’t feel guilty because your eating pattern does not fit into a more standard one like three meals and a couple of snacks. You also might just be having a hungrier day because you didn’t meet your energy needs the day before. Don’t feel guilty because you need to eat. It’s important to nourish your body.
My Own Professional Work with the Hunger Scale
When I first started my own work with the hunger scale, I didn’t see how I could meaningfully address the topic of honoring our hunger if I didn’t also address the fact that I found out for myself (and millions of others) that hunger can be caused by the food itself. What this means is that you cannot straighten out what is going on with your ability to honor your hunger – which has to do with mind, heart and perception - until you address what is physically going on with your body. As I get nearer to Principle 10, Gentle Nutrition, I will put that information into a separate episode of its own.
Right now, though, I want to tackle the question about whether or not you should ever eat if you are not hungry in addition to what I talked about above where your schedule does not allow for standard meals or standard meal times. There are many schools of thought on this one and I will give you mine.
I say it is okay to eat even if you are not hungry, but I want to explore it before you go off saying, “Miriam said I could eat even if I’m stuffed.”
I am not saying that at all. What I am saying is that food and meal-taking is so entrenched in our cultures. There is food at happy occasions, such as weddings and birth celebrations. There is food at holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. There is food at sad occasions, such as funerals. There is food to show love, such as the special dinner or dessert requested by the birthday person.
Like it or not, food does show love. The problem arises when the food itself becomes love and happiness and when sadness develops at a visceral level for us. Now when we are upset, we eat; when we are lonely, we eat; when we are happy, we eat. I am also talking about that “short-chain” reaction, i.e., my boss yelled at me so I’m going to eat cupcakes. These circumstances should not give you permission to eat when you are not hungry.
I am also not saying to give into food pushers. “Here, I made your favorite pie, and you will hurt my feelings if you don’t eat it” or “Take one more bite it – it won’t kill you.” I am further not saying that if you ate lunch you brought with you and the office orders out that you should have a second lunch or that you should eat food because it is there, or it is free.
I am saying that you do not have to be at a 5 or less on the scale to eat. Maybe you had a late and satisfying breakfast and intend to skip lunch but there is a mid-day Christmas party at the office and there is a favorite dessert you like. You can wrap it up for later, or you can have a bite or piece and enjoy it. You do not then have to hate yourself because the food was off your plan or you ate when you were already at a 6.
Have it, enjoy it, and move on. Don’t make yourself sick at a Thanksgiving dinner but try not to start it being stuffed by eating all the appetizers.
Let’s say you did have too many appetizers and you were talking with friends and drinking and before you know it you are already at a 5 or 6. Looking at the Good-Better-Best way to handle this, GOOD would be to make a plate and have it but at least don’t have seconds or desserts. BETTER would be to take a little of your most favorite thing and just eat that. BEST would be to not eat (and if it is at a family member’s house – or your own – you can ask to wrap up a plate to go).
The point is, eating when you are not hungry does not have to be black or white, right or wrong. You can look at Good-Better-Best and take the route that is best for you. Don’t let GOOD derail you because it is not BEST. GOOD is a valid stop on the journey. If you are a new listener and haven’t heard me talk about Good-Better-Best, go to my resource page at miriamhatoum.com/resources to get the booklet.
Another situation would be if you are going out to dinner, but you had a late and satisfying breakfast. Let yourself get a little hungry during the day – have a snack or half of your lunch, so that you are at a 5 or below when you go out to dinner. But if you are not that hungry, you don’t have to sit there and drink a glass of water while everyone else is eating. Have just an appetizer or salad. Join the meal and don’t feel guilty.
Eating past a 7 or 8 is not a moral issue.
I’ve talked about this so many times, but I want to repeat it here. Eating past a 7 or 8 – meaning that you are eating even though you are no longer hungry – is not the tipping point between whether you are a good person or a bad person, a worthy person or an unworthy person. It is a question of how do you want to feel? There is the physical layer – you certainly don’t want to make yourself sick or feel so bad you are popping Tums all night.
The mental layer is actually more important. How will you feel if you eat food not on your plan and feel way past full? Can you give yourself permission or will you beat yourself up, hate yourself, and maybe get totally derailed from your food plan? I think it is important to see yourself through several of these situations. Sometimes eat, sometimes don’t eat. Eventually you will learn what is best for you. One size does not fit all!
Situations where you might find yourself not hungry but faced with food
· You might be asking, “What will happen if I am not hungry for three meals?” As odd as this question might seem, this is a source of anxiety and worry for a lot of people, myself included. The natural progression of most balanced eating plans - especially with Keto and Low Carb – is that you are less often hungry because your hunger hormone (ghrelin) and fullness hormone (leptin) begin to throw off their shackles of insulin resistance. I was absolutely a three-meal-a-day plus two-snack-a day eater with plenty of after-dinner eating as well. In my case, the progression for me with Keto started with having breakfast and coffee, then lunch, then something on the way home during my long commute. When I got home, I wasn’t hungry, and I missed having dinner, especially on the evenings that my husband was off from work. On those occasions I often ate when I wasn’t hungry and that just didn’t feel good.
o I thought to myself, if I want to be hungry at dinner what is logical to cut out?
o I cut out lunches, but I hated that because I had a lunch hour at work.
o In the nice weather I could go for a walk, but in the colder weather I stayed in my office, and I just didn’t know what to do with myself for that hour, when I had always enjoyed shutting my door and having a leisurely lunch.
o I finally cut out breakfast (I had been a huge breakfast eater) but didn’t want to forgo coffee.
o After a while I had a couple of coffees with heavy cream in the morning, a light lunch and then enjoy a later dinner so that I was not looking to eat in the evening and also, I am not that hungry in the morning.
· Another similar adjustment comes when you go out with friends to eat, and you are just not hungry. I know it is difficult in a social situation to not eat, especially if everyone is out to dinner or lunch at a restaurant.
o I would never say to eat anyway, especially if you have been trying so hard to get your hunger cues where you can feel them.
o Have a cup of tea or coffee. If you are at about a 3 (on a scale of 1 – 10), it is okay to have something light.
o No one would question you if you just ordered a salad.
o The other thing is to plan to be hungry at the meal.
o If it is lunch, maybe have an earlier dinner the night before and cut your coffee or other beverage consumption in the morning.
o If it is dinner, that one is easy – perhaps have a light breakfast that day and then skip lunch or have something light but filling, like a few slices of salami and cheese.
A lot of times this anxiety can come just from breaking your habits around food.
· If this is the situation, stop and breathe, and then ask yourself, “Am I hungry? What do I really need here?”
o I got very anxious at lunch, so in the nice weather I tried to get out for a walk, but eventually I adjusted my meals so that I was hungry at lunch.
o I would want to eat in the evenings after dinner, and in the midst of breaking that habit I would get very anxious.
o I stopped and asked myself what was really going on to cause that level of “head hunger”?
§ Was I just unable to relax?
§ What would help?
§ Was I rethinking things that happened during the day that might have upset me?
o They are only thoughts, sit with them and let the anxiety wash over and pass. Is it purely habit, for instance watching TV and eating? Get up and brush your teeth and get ready for bed.
o Once you get used to not reacting to mealtimes, social situations, habits and anxiety, this question is moot. It won’t even phase you that you are not eating the usual quantities and number of times.
And I want to circle back to the question, “What if I don’t even know that I’m hungry?”
· If you have been strongly ruled by an externalities, you may have no clue what hunger is.
· This is because you relied on a clock or social situation to tell you it was time to eat.
· If you absolutely have no clue what feeling hungry is, I suggest a short intermittent fast.
o If you must, have your coffee in the morning but go until dinner with nothing but water.
o Still not sure you are hungry?
o Wait until the morning to eat.
o Short intermittent fasts clear up a lot of the “How do I know if I’m hungry?” questions.
· Another way to learn is to pay attention to how you feel after you eat.
o Please don’t eat until the “I can’t eat another bite” stage – take one serving of whatever you are eating and put the fork down.
o Sit quietly and really home in on how you are feeling.
o Do you feel sort of neutral (5) – that you could probably eat a bit more without being stuffed?
o Okay – hold on to the feeling.
o Next time you wonder if you are hungry, recall this feeling you have right now.
o If this is how you feel you are not hungry enough to take a meal.
It’s not an all-or-nothing situation
The following statements are some examples but keep in mind you still have to nourish your body. EAT!
· It’s not a mealtime so I’m not going to eat even though I’m hungry
· I ate just a little while ago so I can’t be hungry already, but I am
· I ate too much at lunch so I am going to go light on dinner even though I know I will be so hungry later and wake up wanting to eat
· I don’t feel well so I’m not going to eat even though I know I should have something in my stomach
· I’m too busy so I’m not going to eat and I will figure it out later
· I am going to make up for not eating so I will eat a lot later
· I’m anxious about a morning presentation so I am going to skip breakfast to have an empty stomach
· I ate too much yesterday so I am going to skip breakfast today even though I know I will be starving by lunch
You can see that in all these cases you are blunting or ignoring your hunger cues. You deserve to eat if you are hungry. You even deserve to eat if you think you are going to be hungry.
I’m not saying to eat a 12-course meal because you won’t have time later to eat when you are hungry. But have a small meal or bring something with you to have when you have a moment even if your stomach isn’t blaring a useful hunger cue.
Be patient with yourself, but more importantly, be kind. Don’t punish yourself for eating too much at one meal by skimping on the next one. Don’t punish yourself by not eating when you have a chance because you know you won’t have time later. Don’t punish yourself by isolating yourself from friends and social events because you don’t deserve to eat with everyone else.
THIS WEEK’S ACTIONABLE COACHING ADVICE
This week please continue working with your hunger scale. In addition to the work you did last week on identifying your hunger and fullness cues, make a note of any time you blew past full or ate when you weren’t hungry. There is no judgment here, just awareness. Reflect upon whether you could have done things differently or even if you would have wanted to. That might be an interesting reflection. No one wants to eat until they are overly full. There is nothing pleasant about that. But did you want that dessert even though you didn’t leave room for it? Did you eat the take-out food that always leaves you too full? Did you have experience at the other end of not eating because there was no time, or you were stressed. Did that cause you to eat more on the other side of that? It’s not just the numbers that are important, start to investigate what is going on behind the scenes when you decide not to eat or when you decide to overeat. Are they not decisions at all, rather things that just seem to be happening to you all the time?
You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge. And you can’t acknowledge what you have no awareness of. Let’s start on the path of awareness, which is really a good portion of what Intuitive Eating is all about.
Next week’s episode
Next week’s topic is something we all yearn for: Making Peace with Food. Making peace with food means something different to each person. I will explore why unconditional permission to eat is vital and how the fears with this concept hold us back. Again, I am excited to move forward and share this with you.
If you are enjoying this podcast, I do have a favor to ask of you. Please subscribe to this podcast and leave a review wherever you listen to your podcast. It helps other people find it by bringing it up in the various directories. Also, don’t be a stranger. Come on over to my Facebook page, Breaking Free From Diet Prison, and let me know if there is anything you would like to hear on the show.
Please share the podcast with your friends, let them know we are going on an Intuitive Eating journey, and invite them to tune in with you and learn how to become free from diet prison.
Until then, go live free from diet worry — I’ll see you back here next time.