This is part one of a four part series on Inner Wisdom Eating (IWE)
The 4 steps of Inner Wisdom Eating (or eating like a thin person) are exactly the same as those promoted by Intuitive Eating.
- Eat when you’re hungry
- Eat what you want
- Eat consciously
- Stop when you are full
The difference lies in the approach and the detail. I will discuss each step in this four part series.
Eat When You’re Hungry
Eat on a Schedule
If you are are chronic dieter who is used to eating every 3 hours on schedule no matter what then the thought of following your hunger can be quite confronting. The easiest way to start is to begin with a schedule of three main meals and two optional snacks planned at approximate times.
For example, I eat breakfast between 7am and 8am and have lunch at noon. If I find I am hungry again by about 10am I’ll have a light snack to tide me over until lunch. If I start getting hungry around 11am, I’ll usually wait until lunch time.
I usually eat dinner around 6.30pm so I might have a mid afternoon snack at 4pm. Again it depends on how filling lunch was. Sometimes I don’t have afternoon tea if I’m going out for dinner and sometimes I do. I can chose to save my appetite and eat a larger gourmet meal or not be as hungry and eat a smaller portion at the restaurant.
In order to take things slowly and not feel out of control, it is completely acceptable (and possibly beneficial) to still have some guidelines. Most cultures have a 3 meal a day routine so there must be some reason why they naturally eat that way.
Don’t believe all the hype about having to eat 6 meals a day or your metabolism will crash. It has been proven that it makes no difference.
Meal frequency per se has essentially no impact on the magnitude of weight or fat loss except for its effects on food intake. If a high meal frequency makes people eat more, they will gain weight. Because they are eating more. And if a high meal frequency makes people eat less, they will lose weight. Because they are eating less. But it’s got nothing to do with stoking the metabolic fire or affecting metabolic rate on a day to day basis. ~ Lyle McDonald
If you prefer to eat smaller meals, then go right ahead. This is all about what suits you, not what suits someone else.
The Hunger Scale
As a person who has spent most of the past 5 years ignoring my hunger signals by either starving or bingeing listening to my hunger is sometimes a challenge.
The first thing to notice is that physical hunger comes on slowly and gradually. If you suddenly get a desire to eat something immediately it is often an emotional reaction rather than physical hunger.
You don’t have to eat at the first sign of hunger. There are two common myths that I have proven untrue.
The first myth is that hunger is constant. It actually comes in waves. You can safely ignore the first faint signs of hunger and it will go away. It will come back stronger and more insistent the next time. I often speak to my body and say, “I know you are hungry but I’m not ready to eat just yet. Food is coming because you know I won’t ever starve you again, but can you just hold on for another 45 minutes please?”
The second myth is that if you get too hungry you will binge. This is also untrue. The degree of hunger you are experiencing prior to a meal does not impact on your appetite. It might cause you to eat faster than normal which might delay your feelings of satisfaction, but being hungry will not cause you to overeat.
The easiest way to know if you are hungry or not is to ‘check in’. Take a deep breath, close your eyes and place your hands on your stomach (underneath your rib cage, not on your belly). Notice the physical sensation there. If it feels hollow and empty, or it’s starting to make gurgling noises (the muscles contracting in anticipation of digestion) then you are hungry.
- Hunger is the sensation generally characterized by spasms in an empty stomach and the instinctive need for food. Hunger is initiated when the body’s food reserve drops below the level of normal energy balance. Thus, hunger is nothing but a physiological regulator for the amount of food intake. In most cases, contractions of the empty stomach significantly increase hunger. These contractions are perceived by the nerve endings (i.e. mechanoreceptors) in the wall of the stomach and conveyed to the brain, where the feeling of hunger originates.Blood glucose level is also an important contributing factor to the sensation of hunger. Glucose levels that drop below a critical concentration are intimately associated with the feeling of a hungry stomach, i.e. strong contractions of its muscular tissue. ~ Leonid Magidenko, MD.
You can rate your hunger on a scale from 1 to 10.
It is probably best to eat when you are roughly around a #3.
Every Day is Different
Some days I eat more and some days I eat less because every day is different — I move more or less, I am at different stages of my cycle, it is hot or cold, and I sometimes have over or under eaten the day before. I trust in my body’s wisdom to tell me through the natural mechanism of hunger. I always have snack food in my office drawer and in my handbag if I am starting to fade unexpectedly.
The First Step
If you would like to try Inner Wisdom Eating then this is a great place to start. You don’t have to plunge from a strictly controlled diet to relaxed eating in one giant leap. Start with simply setting the intention to check in with your hunger before you eat. You don’t have to change anything about when and what you eat, all you have to do is notice what you are feeling in your stomach before the meal and perhaps afterwards. Rate your hunger levels on the 1-10 scales just for information purposes. (If you love analysing data then write it down and see if you can detect a pattern)
The act of taking time to listen to the physical messages your body is sending you will help you learn to re-connect with your own wisdom, re-establish trust with your body, and highlight when you are engaging in emotional eating. Best of all, by ‘checking in’ you will give yourself the gift of peace and calm right before you eat.
In this Series
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