Do you struggle with having the desire to eat differently, but can’t seem to actually make a change? It can be incredibly frustrating to bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be. “I feel like I know what I need to do but can’t make myself actually do it. What is wrong with me?!” You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve heard people say those exact words. There’s so much that goes into behavior change - way more than can fit into a single blog post, but one thing is for certain… change is hard.
A critical step I think most people skip when attempting to form a new habit is understanding why you do the things you do. What drives your behaviors? For most of us our habits are so deeply ingrained in our daily routine that we don’t ever question them. However, the first phase in making any sort of behavior change is Self-Awareness. How connected are you to your actions? When it comes to eating there are three main driving forces behind every food decision. If you’ve ever kept a food journal before I bet that you logged what foods you ate and how much. Maybe you measured or weighed your food, and even counted calories or points. But, have you ever stopped to think 'why did I eat that'? The answer might just be the key to identifying your barriers keeping you stuck. Gaining self-awareness will give you the insight you need to overcome the obstacles standing in your way.
I want to introduce you to the three types of hunger that are behind our food choices. I challenge you to keep a food journal, but focus in on your thoughts, beliefs, feelings, emotions, and physical sensations before, during, and after your eating experience.
This is the physiological need for energy. Your biology and hormones play an important role in appetite regulation, and physical hunger is your body’s way of sending you the message that it’s time to eat. It’s natural for you to feel physically hungry every 3-4 hours.
Signs of physical hunger: stomach gurgling, difficulty focusing, poor concentration, irritability, moodiness, lightheadedness, shakiness.
Using food as a coping mechanism for feelings and emotions. It’s common to eat when we’re happy, sad, stressed, angry, lonely, bored, etc. If you find yourself eating when you’re not physically hungry (stomach grumbling hunger) - is there a trigger that is making you feel a certain way? And is food your way of temporarily avoiding or escaping the unpleasant feelings?
Eating out of routine. Your 12:00 lunch break, eating cake at a birthday party, driving by your favorite coffee shop, going out to eat with a certain group of friends are all examples of habitual hunger. Certain people, situations, traditions, locations, or time of day drive you to eat even when you might not be physically hungry.
Here are some questions you can use to help get you started with increasing self-awareness around your eating behaviors:
Am I physically hungry? How hungry am I on a scale of 1-10?
How long has it been since I last ate?
How am I feeling emotionally? Am I tired, stressed, bored, sad, frustrated?
Do I like this food? Do I enjoy the taste and texture?
Do I want to eat this?
Am I enjoying the experience of this meal?
What do I need right now?