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Who’s Hungry?

Why do we eat?

It seems a very simple question, but for many people trying to lose weight, increase fitness or improve health it is a very important one. The immediate answers from most people are usually along the lines of ‘to avoid being hungry’, ‘to stay alive’ or ‘to give us the energy to live’.

Now all of these answers are correct, but consuming food for the purpose of fuelling the body is certainly not the only reason we eat and possibly not even the most common. Some of the many other reasons we consume food are enjoyment, boredom, comfort, social and even just because it’s in front of us!

So now we are aware that other reasons for eating exist we can begin to ask the important question of who’s actually hungry? Is it Hungry You, Bored You, Emotional You, Social You, or Situational You?

You should be aware of this is as feeding anyone other than hungry you could be negatively impacting your health, as well as your body shape and/or performance goals. It’s also good to identify these other factors so that you can develop ways of satisfying them without detracting from another goal.

So let’s take a look at each one and what we can do about them.

Hungry You

Description – This should be the number one reason for putting food in to your mouth as we need enough quality nutrition to supply our body with the nutrients it needs to perform daily tasks. Feelings of genuine hunger should always be listened to and enough food should be consumed to satisfy your hunger needs.
Advantages of Feeding This You:

  • It gives you the best chance of performing at your optimal level,
  • Helps you avoid health complications.

Disadvantages of Feeding This You:

  • There is a good chance of overeating and beginning to feed a different you. It’s very common for people to go past the point of being satisfied just because the crusty bread rolls on the table are so delicious.
  • Solution – Eat when you’re hungry, paying close attention to when your body is satisfied. Putting small amounts of food on your plate and waiting a moment before going back for more is a good way to start the process of listening to your body.

    Bored You

    Description – You’re floating around the house at the weekend or maybe you’ve been sat staring at your computer screen for too long and all of a sudden you get the urge to open a pack of biscuits. You haven’t felt any hunger pains or signals that your body needs food and are in all likelihood, bored. So taking five minutes to walk to the kitchen, locate the biscuit tin and scoff a few down will give you something to do.
    Advantages of Feeding This You:

    • You alleviated boredom temporarily,
    • The biscuit(s) was fun to eat.

    Disadvantages of Feeding This You:

    • Unlikely to keep your boredom at bay for long,
    • You’ve triggered the habit that biscuits can cure boredom. Cue endless trips to the biscuit tin (or box of flapjacks if you’re me),
    • You’re consuming calories and other ingredients that your body doesn’t need and that are likely to hinder any health and fitness goals you may have.

    Solution – Before reaching for food, ask the question of who’s hungry and if it’s Bored You try to find alternative methods for relieving your boredom that aren’t destructive to your health and fitness goals. A walk around the office, a cup of green tea or maybe that YouTube video of the of the baby laughing at paper being ripped.

    Emotional You

    Description – You’ve had a rubbish day at work, you’ve got a big presentation tomorrow or maybe you’re worried about a loved one? We all have times when we feel a bit down and our body instantly looks for ways to cheer us up. Indulging in something we enjoy, commonly chocolate or alcohol, is a way of temporarily changing the chemical makeup of your body and brain, leading you to feel better.

    Advantages of Feeding This You:

    • It works, even though it’s usually temporary,
    • It’s one of the quickest pick me ups around. Not many things that can work as quickly as cutting a slice of cake or opening a bottle of wine.

    Disadvantages of Feeding This You:

    • It’s destructive to other health and fitness goals,
    • Easy for it to become a habit,
    • It doesn’t lead to the long term changes you may need to make in order to avoid these situations in the future.

    Solution – If you realise Emotional You is in need of some attention, look for alternative methods. Maybe talking it through with a friend, writing in a journal, mediating, exercising or having a relaxing bath. There are always other methods you can use that can actually be beneficial to your health and long term goals, you just need to look past the destructive quick fix first. If it is something that happens often it is also important to address the actual issue. If you’re always reaching for some alcohol after a bad day at work you need to figure out why you are constantly having bad days at work.

    Social You

    Description – ‘Breaking bread’ with loved ones is a long standing tradition. Most people enjoy eating and everyone has to eat at some point so it’s often a good way of catching up with people.
    Advantages of Feeding This You:

    • You can kill two birds with one stone,
    • It often helps the conversation flow better than just sitting around,
    • It’s fun.

    Disadvantages of Feeding This You:

    • Often this means eating out, which can make it hard to control the type and quality of food available, which can work against our health and fitness goals,
    • Can lead to over consumption and consumption of things you could easily avoid at home such as alcohol, coffee and dessert.

    Solution – Be aware of what you are doing when you socialise while eating. It is very easy to consume 3 courses and some wine without really thinking about it, just because you’re caught up in what everyone else is doing. Also don’t be afraid to explain to people that you have health and fitness goals you’re trying to achieve. If they then pressure you in to doing something you don’t want to maybe you should address why you’re socialising with them in the first place? Alternatively if this is too difficult or awkward avoid the situation and find other methods of socialising.

    Situational You

    Description – This is where you have no need to eat what so ever but food happens to be available. Usually a food you’re fond of; someone’s passing around the chocolates at work, the kids have left some cookies on the side or you’re buying a coffee and there happens to be brownies sitting by the till.
    Situational Eating
    Advantages of Feeding This You:

    • It can help you socialise when in a group,
    • It’s a chance for pleasure you might not get later on.

    Disadvantages of Feeding This You:

    • It can sabotage your health and fitness goals,
    • It promotes a bad habit of eating whenever you have the chance.

    Solution – Be aware of it and use these situations as a chance to practice self restraint. Avoid coffee shops and other places where they can tempt you with spur of the moment purchases. Also try avoiding indulging your sweet tooth when by yourself and then you can feel free to participate in the odd bit of birthday cake or biscuit at work without it impacting on your health or goals.

    Hopefully from the above you begin to get the idea that there are many different reasons for us to consume food and not all of them are conducive to good health and progress with our goals. It isn’t necessarily wrong to consume food in order to help combat things such as boredom, sadness or anxiety but it is important to be conscious of your decisions before your health, performance or body shape is affected in a way that you will regret in the future. It’s also important to recognise which part of your personality needs some TLC so that you can go about it the right way and truly bring about healthy change.

    Until next time.

    Eat wisely,

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