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Are you "really" hungry?

I've found that many of us misinterpret hunger pains we have or the lack of hunger pains. Why is there such a difference between these two experiences? Often it is in our interpretation of the signals. Early recognition of hunger is a helpful skill to develop. While you don't want to overreact and overeat at the slightest hint of hunger, letting hunger go too long will result in an urgent drive to eat. Usually, this drive leads to overeating. It is a problem for weight control because food intake is not paced to match the body's natural rhythm. Read on to get some specific tips on reading your body hunger signals and why eating every 2.5-3 hrs is key to your long term success. 

We get our fuel from food, so hunger is our body telling us it is time to eat. The question is, which fuel is running low? Fats and sugar are the two main fuel sources of your body, and it is highly unlikely that fat fuel will ever run too low. Even on the leanest bodies, it is estimated that 35,000 calories of fat are in reserve. Sugar stores provide only 800 calories in reserve. Many of the signals of hunger are related to a depletion of sugar reserves.

An empty stomach is not always the signal your body gives when it needs fuel. Look at the list below and identify body sensations you recognize as common for you.

Low blood sugar causes:

Fatigue, tiredness, yawning - Less fuel for brain activity
Weakness, less energy - Less sugar fuel for muscle activity
Inattentiveness - Less fuel for brain activity or focus
Lightheadedness, dizziness - Less fuel for brain activity
Headache - Muscle tension and less fuel for brain
Shakiness, muscle tension - Adrenaline, stress response
Irritability, mood change - Adrenaline, stress response
Occasional nausea - Adrenaline, stress response 

When you are hungry, ask yourself, "On a scale of 1-to-10, how strong are my hunger signals?" If you wait until your hunger score reaches 10, you have waited too long. Adrenaline will be activated and you will have an urgent drive to eat, anything and everything, as quickly as possible. A good time to eat is when your hunger has reached a score of 6 or 7. This allows you to be more selective about food choices, and to eat slower.

1 - None
2 - Faint
3 - Slight
4 - Mild
5 - Low
6 - Moderate
7 - High
8 - Moderate High
9 - Very High
10 - Extreme 
      
Judge the amount of food you need to eat in order to lower your hunger score back down to a score of 1 or 2. Eating until you are overly full or stuffed is not the idea. Remember, when spacing your meals, you will be eating again in a few hours if you're using the science of the six fuelings (see more on this inside chapter 8 from the Habits of Health at http://www.lifeplancommunity.com/media/files/Chap8.pdf). 

Eat slowly, and allow food to begin digesting before you decide whether or not you need more. You will gradually feel your energy level, mental alertness and physical discomforts all fade as your food digests and blood sugar is restored. Comfort is the key to satiety, not discomfort which results from being too full.

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