Provision #151: Am I Hungry?

LifeTrek Provision

My son,now age 16, has been skinny all his life. He’s one of those people who can eatanything he wants and never get fat. He’s one of those people that the rest ofus love to hate. But should we? Having lived with this guy for more than 16years, I’ve come to notice a thing or two about his eating habits. And guesswhat? He eats “anything he wants,” but only when he is hungry. In otherwords, he’s skinny as a rail for more reasons than his metabolism.

Thistendency to eat only when hungry is generally shared by most “naturally thin”people. It can be an extremely disconcerting and disorienting trait. One canwork for an hour on a gourmet meal. If my son is not hungry, he’ll come to thetable, take a few bites, and then think nothing about throwing the food away(unless we move quick to either eat it ourselves or store it).

Imaginethat. Throwing away perfectly good food just because you don’t feel hungry.What about all the starving people in the world? They would give anything tohave food like that. Shouldn’t we eat the food whether we’re hungry or not? Theanswer, in a word, is “No.”

By thetime the food gets to our plate, whether or not we eat it has absolutely noimpact on the starving people of the world. But it does have a tremendousimpact on our weight, health, and overall well-being. (Now if everyone in NorthAmerica would start buying less food that would eventually have atremendous impact on world hunger.)

Thenext time you reach for a snack or sit down at a meal, I want you to askyourself a simple question: “Am I hungry?” That is a simple yet powerfulquestion. If the answer is no, then don’t eat. Wait till you feel hungry. If theanswer is yes, then eat • slowly, moderately, and healthy.

Manypeople don’t know true hunger when they feel it. Many, in fact, will say theyare always hungry. They have lost the ability to distinguish between physicalhunger and heart hunger. So they eat, thinking they’re hungry, because it makesthem feel good. But, like a drug, this kind of eating • to fill the heartrather than the stomach • is but a quick and temporary fix. The heart hungercomes back in no time and we find ourselves eating again. In the end, thetendency to fill our heart hunger with food leads to disease and prematuredeath.

So howdo we figure out if we’re truly hungry? By asking ourselves the simplequestion, “Am I hungry?” Ask it every time, before we put food in our mouths.Become a mindful, rather than mindless, eater.

JudyWardell in her book Thin Within: How To Eat and Live Like a Thin Person(Simon & Schuster • New York, 1985) suggests that we learn to rank ourhunger on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being empty, 5 being comfortable, and 10being stuffed. Wardell teaches people to eat only when they’re empty and tostop before they’re comfortable. That’s partly because it takes a while aftereating for the feeling of satiety to set in. Regular small meals, or whatWardell calls “0-to-5 eating,” is the way to go.

Tobecome mindful of our hunger may take real effort. It certainly takes slowingdown. If it proves difficult, Wardell advises that we literally touch ourabdomen with our hands and ask ourselves the question, “Am I hungry? Am Iempty?” You’ll be amazed what a difference it makes. Her bottom line is goodadvice, “When in doubt, don’t eat.” If you’re not sure whether you’re truly,physically hungry then don’t eat (even if you’re sitting down at the dinnertable). Don’t worry, if you wait long enough the feeling of true hunger willcome • of that you can be sure.

Keep inmind that simple carbohydrates (sugar, white flour, white potatoes, etc.)stimulate hunger pangs and may fool your body into thinking its truly hungrywhen its not. A high-fiber, low-sugar, healthy diet will assist you greatly tostay and live with that simple yet powerful question, “Am I hungry?”

May yoube filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

BobTschannen-Moran