How we mistake hunger & a hunger meditation

How we mistake hunger & a hunger meditation


Some people eat to live, while others (hand raised) live to eat! I have never understood folks who say things like: “I was so busy that I forgot to eat lunch” or “ I don’t eat breakfast” or one of my favorites, “I eat because I have to”. None of those phrases have ever passed my lips and I’m fairly certain that I’ve never missed a meal. That can be a good thing, but it can also be a bit dangerous when one relies on food to satisfy gaps in their lives. 

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Babies are great about hunger cueing. They fuss when they are truly hungry and stop eating once they are full. Somewhere along the lines, their innate ability to regulate their hunger changes as they grow older and the outcome is often adults who are clueless how to dictate when and how much to eat. 

It has taken a lot of meditation and work on intuitive eating (and I’m not perfect), but I’ve identified 5 major factors that make me mistake my natural hunger cues: 


1. Stress

So often people eat because they need a distraction from their day to day life. Boss yelled at you? Need a cooke. Mother in law has cancer? 2 servings of lunch. Fight with your significant other? Taco Bell 4th meal. It is a vicious cycle. Our bodies don’t often need the extra food that our emotions are craving.

I like to use the mental tool of imagining a scale of one to 10 - 10 being starving and one being way too full. I try to eat when I’m at a 7 or an 8 and stop when I’m at a three or a four (comfortably full). 

2. Sleep deprivation

Being low on sleep makes it exceedingly difficult to accurately assess hunger and satiety cues. Everyone should be getting between 7.5 - 8 hours of sleep per night, but usually people get 6 or less. When you don’t get enough sleep, you don’t get enough leptin (something that your body produces to create satiety). Chemically, your body will begin craving more because you are sleepy and it is getting it’s “fix” in another form. 

3. Thirst

It’s true what they say, you should really try drinking a glass of water before a meal. Filling your stomach before consuming food leaves a bit less room. I also like to eat my meal and then wait 20 minutes or so before thinking about going back for more because it takes the body 20 minutes to figure out it is no longer hungry. 


4. Hangover Hunger

Eating too much greasy food after a night of over-consumption may make your headache/stomachache subside, but it is not kind to your body. Instead of laying in bed all day, try hydrating and getting active. Take a short walk and the urge to overeat may pass. 

5. Social Pressure/Insecurity

You know yourself best — are you triggered by sweets at a housewarming event/baby shower/bridal party or are you “hungry” for 4 servings at a low country broil? Often times we eat in a social setting because we are uncomfortable. Try compiling a list of questions that you can ask people at a gathering, eat a snack before you go, and position yourself away from the food table! Of course, eat if you are hungry, but be sure to really examine whether you are eating because you are anxious and want to fill your mouth with food instead of conversing with others. 

It’s quite simple. We eat out of habit, not because we are hungry. We are either stressed, need a reward, are tired, dehydrated, depressed, or lonely. By breaking this cycle with a meditation, food will taste better. You will learn to enjoy healthy foods, you will eat less, and gravitate towards simpler foods. Not only will you begin to savor your meals more, but you will start to address the emotions around eating. Use some or all of my tips below to get started! 


Hunger Meditation

  1. Create a space. Stop multi-tasking. Find a clear de-cluttered space and do just one thing: eat! Novel concept, right? 
  2. Observe your food. Food doesn’t have to be fancy for you to observe and consider it. You can eat the same thing each day and have a new experience. You can mindfully observe a carrot or a piece of cake in the same way. Simply sit. Notice the food, the texture, the color, the symmetry or the imperfections. Smell it. Take it in.
  3. Think about where it came from. Where did the food come from? Another continent? Your local area? Who picked it and how did it make it’s way to you? Was it an animal? If so, consider how the animal sacrificed it’s life for you. If it is a plant-based food, think about the farmer that harvested it. Be grateful and thankful for the food you consume.
  4. Savor it. One bite at a time, put the food in your mouth and observe it's taste and texture —savor it. Is it crunchy, soft, chewy, grainy, syrupy? Is it earthy, sweet, floral, salty, spicy, oaky, citrus-y, grassy, herbal, mossy, tangy, tannin-y? Think too about what has been added to the food — chemicals, salt, sugar, fat? How does the food make you feel? Consider what nutrients the food is giving you and how it is nourishing you. Think about the things that this food will fuel you to do with your day. 
  5. Notice your whole self. What do you feel as you eat? Are you hungry, stressed, sad, happy, hurt, angry, afraid, confused, lonely, bored, impatient? Take note of this! 
  6. Pause between bites. Don’t pick up the next bite as you chew. Just stay with one bite, then swallow. Breathe. Maybe count to 20. Be present in the space between each bite and enjoy the process.  

Start off by practicing this once a day. When it becomes a regular habit, try it twice a day. Eventually, do it every time you eat a meal or snack, or have anything to drink. You may surprise yourself and you can begin to break the chain of overeating and avoid food guilt

Meghan Ann Martin