What is Real Hunger?

In order to identify hunger, you must first understand what it is. This is not as easy as it seems. Many of you may never have let yourself experience true hunger, only a feeling of discomfort. Not knowing exactly what it was, you may have been eating past hunger for such a long time you can no longer differentiate between hunger and the feeling of anxiety, stress, boredom, or any number of other emotional or circumstantial stimuli. You haven't allowed yourself to go without eating for a long enough period of time to have felt true hunger; you may not have experienced it since childhood.

Each of us is born with an innate sense of hunger. When you were a baby and felt this sensation, you cried. Your mother or caregiver pacified you with a bottle or breast, and when you were no longer hungry, you pushed the food away. Before you could speak, you made yourself understood.

As a toddler beginning to eat baby food, you were still in control of your food consumption. Your mother might have thought you had to finish everything she served, but you had other ideas. You might have clenched your little baby teeth and not permitted one extra spoonful of anything to enter your mouth. She might have pushed your chubby little cheeks together trying to force you to open your mouth, but you would not. If she did manage to insert some food, you spit it out, sometimes on your bib, sometimes on mom. The message was clear. "No more food, Mommy."

As she persevered, you finally learned to please your mother by finishing everything on your plate. You may have been told that if you ate your vegetables, your reward would be dessert. You were bribed with a lollipop if you'd stop crying. You learned to eat all your food because it gave pleasure to others. It didn't seem to matter anymore whether you were hungry or not. You were taught to ignore your feelings of hunger and satiation just to please someone else. And you learned well.

Years later, you're still keeping a friend company by sharing a meal when you're not hungry, or accepting an alcoholic beverage just to be part of the crowd, or to please a hostess.

The dictionary describes hunger as "the painful sensation or state of weakness caused by need of food." Some people become irritable, shaky, or disoriented if they are not fed at their usual mealtime. Others experience hunger as feeling lightheaded, empty, low, headachy, or hollow. At times a growling stomach prompts an eating episode. Some eat when they get depressed. Others lose their appetite when they get depressed. External stimuli are abundant, as are emotional and physical ones, yet few of these are hunger, just some other strain on your nervous system.

Human beings have a built-in fight or flight mechanism that helps them to survive. When your ancestors roamed the earth and encountered a tiger who had leaped out of the bushes, they would mobilize themselves to either fight the tiger or flee from it. Years later, you still face the tigers. A death in the family, loss of a job, or an illness may certainly have the bite of a tiger. Your pulse quickens, your mouth feels dry, your palms sweat and you revert to old behavior and try to quell the anxiety by putting something into your mouth. You also may be reacting to the fluctuations of daily life ? a waiter being inept, traffic inching along, a line at the bank ? that cause you to eat a box of cookies or ask for a second helping of food. You might be misidentifying a minor travail as a tiger when it is only a baby cub.

Have you had the experience of thinking you were hungry at noontime only to become absorbed in a project or in a book, and have several hours pass before you think about food again? True hunger cannot wait a few hours. It demands to be fed. You were not hungry at noon but were responding to a time of day stimulus, another reason you've given yourself to eat. If you distract yourself with some other activity, the urge usually passes within a few minutes. Try to differentiate between your hungers and your urges.

Food need not fill you up in order for you to feel satisfied. A few bites of foods you don't usually eat can be very satisfying while baskets of bread, mugs of coffee, or liter bottles of diet soda might leave you feeling hungry and unsatisfied.

It is not okay to eat when you are physically or emotionally uncomfortable. Eat when you're hungry. Stop eating when you are no longer hungry, not when you are full or there is nothing remaining on your plate. As your clothes get looser, you'll start to enjoy leaving food on your plate. It is a process that takes time to achieve. Remember:

Volume of non-nutritious food merely stuffs and bloats but does not satisfy real hunger.

Variety and texture along with nutrition satiates hunger.

About The Author

This article is an excerpt from the book Conquer Your Food Addiction published by Simon and Schuster. Caryl Ehrlich, the author, also teaches The Caryl Ehrlich Program, a one-on-one behavioral approach to weight loss in New York City. Visit her at http://www.ConquerFood.com to know more about weight loss and keep it off without diet, deprivation, props, or pills.

Caryl@ConquerFood.com

In The News:


pen paper and inkwell


cat break through


Healthy Diet Answers: Want Fries With That Mister ?

Yes, my healthy diet has at times suffered at the... Read More

Are Low Carb Diets Good for Everyone?

What's a Low Carb Diet Really Mean?When I hear low... Read More

The Truth About Low Carb Dieting

Every day you walk down the street it is becoming... Read More

Holiday Eating: Party Hearty Without Putting on the Pounds!

The holidays are definitely a special time of year. These... Read More

How to Get Started on Permanent Weight Loss Program

Why We Start Diets on MondayThe biggest problem with any... Read More

Im Freezing! Why Gastric Bypass Causes Patients to be Cold

Body temperature is the result of your body generating and... Read More

Diet: Changing Your Focus

Have you ever decided to take a trip somewhere relatively... Read More

3 Easy Dieting Success Tips

1. Drink 8-10 glasses of water each dayOkay, for many... Read More

A Warning of the Complications of Gastric Bypass Surgery

Gastric bypass surgery involves stapling the stomach to make it... Read More

11 Steps to Guarantee Weight Loss and Fitness Success

1. Persistence!Violate this step and you'll never achieve permanent results.... Read More

Conventional Dieting Wisdom That Works for WLS Patients

In many cases conventional dieting wisdom simply doesn't work for... Read More

Body Dysmorphia: Mind Games After Gastric Bypass Surgery

Maybe you've heard about body dysmorphia ? it's a mental... Read More

It?s Not Just About Dieting

You may not like what I'm about to say, but... Read More

Weight Loss Programs: Which Weight Loss Program Will Really Work?

Weight loss programs often have big claims. Understand the "science"... Read More

Lose Fat and Retain Muscle By Getting In Touch With Hunger

"Unless that apple tastes like the best apple you've ever... Read More

4 Tips for Fast Fat Loss Part I

Fat Loss Tip #1) Train With WeightsWorking out with weights... Read More

Weight Loss Surgery May Add Years to Life

Stomach-Stapling Surgery ------------ There's no doubt that stomach-stapling surgery leads... Read More

Scientific Research Shows Why Diets Dont Work, If You Want to Sustain Long Term Weight Loss

To say that dieting rarely leads to sustainable weight loss... Read More

Loose 10 Pounds by Drinking Water?

Drink plenty of water. Our body needs a lot of... Read More

How Julia Roberts Can Help You Lose Weight

How would you like Julia Roberts to coach you on... Read More

Dieting Torture By Another Name, It Doesnt Need To Be That Way

I have tried many "diets" here in the USA and... Read More

LA Weight Loss Secrets ? High Profile Personal Trainer Shares the Magic Formula!

In the early nineties I had the opportunity to work... Read More

Fat Is A Self-Inflicted Disease

I just came back from three days in Las Vegas.... Read More

Help me, Im Addicted to Sugar

A client wrote, "Help me! I thought I was finally... Read More

Weight Loss Motivation: I CAN DO IT!

Several months ago I was in desperate need of weight... Read More

Metabolism Drug Induced Weight Loss Can Be Effective, But Are You Aware Of The Risks?

A metabolism drug like ephedrine, has shown many people how... Read More

How to Buy Chocolate Then Forget to Eat It

Some Say I'm Strange. I Prefer to Think of Myself... Read More

Fast Weight Loss Using Herbs And Spices

I wonder how much it is generally known that the... Read More

Low Carbohydrate Diet Revolution -- A History

Most people think of the Atkins diet when they hear... Read More

Gastric Bypass Surgery ? A Mortality Rate to Be Scared Of?

Success stories on the gastric bypass are everywhere, but how... Read More

Smarter Eating

Dieting doesn't have to be a chore. Actually, you can... Read More

Rating the Fad Diets

THE 200 POINT SYSTEMWith so many different diets available, how... Read More

Eat More Often to Lose Weight

I'm sure you have heard it before, but one of... Read More