Over the past year I have been attempting to make changes, for the better, to my eating habits. For a month this summer I tracked not only what I ate but when I ate. I recognized that my diet is rather healthy but I was constantly eating. I had been spreading my food out during the day, all day. I realized that this constant grazing had led to me to never really know if I was hungry. It also drove me to always feel the need to have food in immediate proximity to me. And when I have food near me, I eat said food, hungry or not. It was a vicious cycle.
Since I was a kid I have always enjoyed snacks. My routine as a child was to come home from school, have a snack and play until dinner time. Some days I’d skip the snack and go directly to play. As a teenager I’d have a snack after school before sports. Some days I’d forget my snack at home so I’d forgo until I got home to eat dinner. As an adult it seems my snacking had morphed into something else, all day grazing.
I’m not really sure why this happened but I speculate it has to do with diet messaging. I see so many ads about weight loss programs saying “never be hungry again” or “never feel deprived.” I began to think that hunger was a bad thing. (Please do not misconstrue my message, food insecurity is a huge issue in the world and a different type of hunger. I am not talking about acute hunger or starvation. I am talking about me eating all the time and not having my body queue me to eat food.)
Here is what I have come to realize, hunger is not a bad thing. Hunger is an innate sense that we are born with. As babies we cried when we were hungry and and stopped feeding when we were full. Hunger is our brain telling us to eat. My stomach rumbling is my body telling me I need nourishment.
I’ve gone back to eating 3 squares a day and a 4 pm snack. I’m not a huge breakfast lover or eater, so I eat a small breakfast. I then eat lunch and dinner. Some days I don’t have a snack, it all depends on how satiating my lunch was and if I’m going to the gym.
Since I’ve made these changes I have noticed a few things:
- I eat less. Less food and less calories. I was eating to eat, not eating because I needed to eat or even eating for pleasure.
- I’ve lessened emotional eating since I don’t have food around me all the time
- I have less crumbs at my desk
- I’m learning what it feels like to be getting hungry, be hungry and be really hungry. I’m learning when I’ve pushed past being hungry and my body is angry with me for not eating (I get a headache and become REALLY CRANKY).
- I drink more fluids, half the time I’m thirsty not hungry
- I’ve realize that treats are not snacks and snacks are not treat. They serve different purposes. One is for pleasure the other is for nourishment.
- I’d rather not have an afternoon snack and have dessert after dinner
- I need less food than my emotions lead me to believe
- I’m more choosy about what I eat and tend pick nutrient dense food more often (eg: spinach over iceberg lettuce)
- I don’t have food insecurity, I should not be afraid of listening to my body and to get hungry
Are you a grazer? Do you eat all day or do you eat meals?