I was in the supermarket the other day when I witnessed a scene that reminded me of the importance of eating when we are hungry. A teenager was trailing after her mother down the aisles clutching a bag of bagels, asking if she could eat one. Her mother turned round and said: "It's only 11 o'clock! If you have it now you won't be hungry for lunch," to which the girl replied "But I'm hungry NOW! I don't want to wait for lunch!" Her mother tutted and said crossly, "Don't be silly, you had breakfast hardly and hour ago. You can't be hungry! What's wrong with you!?"
At this point I'm tempted to go into rant mode and talk about how the mother's response will shape her daughter's relationship with food. This is a young woman who is being told she can't trust herself to interpret the most basic of physiological signals: being hungry, like being sleepy and needing to wee are signals that human beings learn to recognize way before they learn to talk. Worse, she is being shamed (in public) for being hungry - there's something wrong with her - you can guarantee she'll always feel self conscious about being hungry in public - much better to eat alone, where no-one can comment. A future Beyond Chocolater, for sure!
But I didn't want this post to be a rant about how mothers unthinkingly contribute to distorting their children's relationship with food and undermine their self confidence. This post is about just how crucial the "eat when you are hungry" principle is.
Unlike some of the other more 'exciting' principles, 'Eat when you are hungry' is not very glamourous and it's tempting skip it in favour of the more "whoa!" ones. And yet, eating when you are hungry lies at the heart of the Beyond Chocolate approach. Lots of people put our book down and run out to stock up on dozens of chocolate bars and fill giant tupperwares with crisps. Some delight in setting the table with pretty plates and and scented candles and eating exactly what they fancy, enjoying every mouthful. Others have gone on a wardrobe rampage and have a ball throwing out all their 'fat' clothes. You can do all these things and if you are not hungry when you eat and you eat when you are not hungry, you will be missing out on a life changing principle.
Whether your goal is to lose weight, have a healthier diet or to stop overeating, eating when you are hungry can make a huge difference to the outcome. Of course, it's not as easy as it sounds. If we all knew how to eat when we were hungry (and many more of us might if we hadn't grown up with messages like the teenager in the supermarket) that's what we'd be doing. Of course, it's not the only action that you will need to take to get where you are going: somewhere along the line you will have to address the issues that drive your emotional eating, you will have to make decisions about what foods have a place (and which don't) in your ideal of a healthy diet and how that fits in with the way you actually eat. You will have to explore your relationship with your body: how you treat it, what you expect of it, what weight-loss represents and how your weight and size shapes your life. These are all equally fundamental steps in transforming our relationship with food and our bodies. And they are complex and can be something of a 2 steps forward, 1 step back thing.
Eating when you are hungry, in comparison, is relatively straightforward to get the hang of. It's a set of skills that need to be learned and then practiced regularly. And the good news is that the more regularly you practice it, the more natural it becomes. And when you eat when you are hungry - more often than not - you are more likely to lose weight, have a healthier diet and be overeating less.
Do you eat when you are hungry? Are you hungry when you eat? Do you know how what hunger feels like in your body? What messages and beliefs do you have about hunger? About waiting till lunchtime?
I'll be talking about how to create your own hunger scale and how to put this principle into practice, on Monday 20th June at 8.30pm in a live telephone Masterclass dedicated to the principle Eat when you are hungry. I will be explaining more about how this principle works and inviting participants to experience it first hand and create a plan to put it all into action.
Beyond Chocolate members and e-course participants will automatically be invited to take part in the Masterclass. You can also take part by booking a place for £10.
I can't figure out how make the the pretty pink telephone below clickable, so you'll have to click here for more information and to book your place on the Masterclass. But I'm keeping the phone anyway because I think it rocks.