Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Intuitive nutrition. Part 8. The importance of a hunger scale.

22 September 2009.
It's me Svetlana continuing on the last 2 principles of intuitive nutrition.

Principle #4. Eating only when hungry (but not ravenous!): a hunger scale.

This is the most difficult rule to follow. It requires the knowledge of the difference between true hunger and appetite, as well as will power, at least initially, until the new eating habits become a new reality for your mind and body (“reset”).

How many times have we been there? We’ve just completed feasting at the dinner table until we couldn’t possibly eat even one more bite when, all of a sudden, dessert is brought out and we’re suddenly somewhat hungry again.
 There’s probably not a single one of us that this scenario hasn’t happened to but what happened there at that dinner table? How could we possibly be so full one second and so hungry the next when all we did was took a look at that freshly-made banana cream pie? What exactly happened? Well, actually, your appetite happened and to better explain it, it helps to know the mechanisms that control our eating behavior (of which appetite is one of them).

We basically have two devices that control how we eat: Appetite, an external stimuli and, Hunger, an internal one. When our body actually requires food it’ll manifest this need with hunger. In this way, we are informed when the body does indeed need further nutrients for the system. Appetite, on the other hand, is a learned response to food and can be triggered by sensory cues (such as the sight and smell of food) at times when eating isn’t necessary. Appetite can also be enhanced by a variety of emotional stimuli such as anxiety, depression or excitement. This is why many of us will easily eat more when feeling depressed.

Appetite can be a very powerful influence on us and can also cause us to eat well past the point of satiety, which is the feeling of fullness in the body that tells us we’re no longer experiencing hunger and that it’s time to now stop eating. The trick for us though, so to speak, is in learning how to listen to our body and its hunger stimuli.

Smart followers of intuitive nutrition concept swear by a hunger scale. Hunger scale is a simple and easy to remember tool which, if used consistently, may become the only tool we need to achieve our nutritional goals and healthy weight for life. There are several hunger scales, but the main principle is exactly the same: there are points given to various levels of physical hunger and satiety, from being ravenous to being completely stuffed. Intuitive nutrition advocates that we never allow extremes of hunger or satiety to occur. By always staying in the middle of hunger scale, from being slightly hungry (and refueling at this moment) to be slightly fool (and stopping eating at this moment) we end up grazing small portions of food pretty much all day long. This gives us multiple advantages:

-food is better digested when taken in small amounts (nutrients are not wasted and the digestive system is not overwhelmed),

-by listening to our body hunger and satiety signals we show our body the ultimate respect it deserves. We stop abusing it by extreme hunger or overstuffing with too much food. Our body will appreciate it and give us back great physical shape,

-food choices are unlimited; we can eat anything we want.

When you truly start experiencing hunger pangs in your stomach it means you went too long without food and are more likely to overeat during the next meal. By following hunger scale you most likely will not follow regular meal times, and simply eat when your body gives you a signal it needs more fuel to function.

Here is an example of a hunger scale.

Eating in a “grey zone” consistently will take your body to its natural weight.

Don’t feel guilty about snacking if your body is genuinely hungry, then it’s hungry and you’ll be less likely to overeat at your regular mealtime this way. Take your time eating too. Savor the taste and smells of your meals and learn how to also take your time fully chewing your food as well. Then, when you first begin experiencing the feeling of satiety, learn how to stop eating at that point.

I find it interesting that experimental animals have proven themselves incredibly efficient in regulating their weight and listening to their hunger instincts even when provided the luxury of eating as much food as they want whenever they wanted too. As humans, we are more than capable of listening to our bodies in the same way as well. So the next time you find that dessert tray calling your name, stop for a second and ask yourself if your body is truly hungry. If you are, then go ahead and enjoy that piece of dessert. If not, then push yourself away and save that dessert for another time.

Many people think that hunger and appetite are the same thing, turns out they are not. Hunger is the feeling of grumbling and growling in your stomach, it is a signal from your body that you need to feed it. Some people also experience a lack of focus, tiredness, irritability or other symptoms when they are hungry. Appetite on the other hand is a craving for certain foods without the feeling of hunger accompanying it. When your body is hungry you should feed it; however, to be successful in weight loss you need to control your appetite.

Before you can control your appetite you need to be aware of what the cause is. Some things that may affect your appetite are:

• Emotions

• Medications

• Surroundings

• Availability of Food

How do you control appetite?

• Before you eat something, stop and ask yourself the question if you are eating out of actual hunger or for another reason like boredom or perhaps you are at a party and there is yummy looking food on the buffet.

• Slow down – it takes your body about 20 minutes to register a feeling of fullness so give you body a chance to catch up.

• If your meals are going to be more than 4 hours apart, include a healthy snack in between so you don’t get overly hungry and overeat at your next meal.

• Remove yourself from the temptation – go for a walk, clean the bathroom, do laundry do anything to get yourself away from the food or feeling that is causing you to want to eat.

• Focus on your meal and your feeling of fullness – if you are distracted by the TV you may overeat

• Eat fiber rich foods to increase your sense of fullness.

• Store foods in the cupboards or pantry – out of site, out of mind. Don’t buy unhealthy foods like cookies or chips. If you have to go to the store to satisfy a craving, you are far less likely to indulge than if you already had that item at home.

• Don’t store food in transparent containers – if you can’t see it you are less likely to eat it.

• Keep a fruit bowl on the counter or washed and cut up veggies in the fridge for a healthy snack alternative. You are more likely to eat fruit and veggies if they are easily accessible.

I find myself now asking before I eat something if I am hungry or if I just want to eat for pleasure. Nine times out of ten if it is just for pleasure I catch myself and stop. I am trying very hard to embrace the concept of “Eating to live not living to eat”. And follow the golden rule: to avoid overeating never ever wait until you are truly ravenous!

Principle #5. Eating slowly to notice the moment of satiety, and stop: a hunger scale, again.

This is what I learned over years: how fast or slow you eat may be that ultimate factor of success or failure in weight loss and maintenance, even if everything else remains equal. Slow, slow, slow, repeat this word like mantra, let it become your second nature. SLOW.

If you're concerned about gaining weight over the upcoming holiday season, consider eating more slowly and you might consume less, a study suggests.

Diet experts have been touting this advice for years, and now nutrition scientists at the University of Rhode Island have some new data to back it up.

They had 30 normal-weight, college-age women come into a laboratory for lunch on two separate occasions. Each time, the women were offered a huge plate of pasta with tomato-vegetable sauce and grated parmesan cheese, plus a glass of water.

They were asked to eat until the point of comfortable fullness. On one occasion, they were instructed to eat as quickly as they could; on the other occasion they ate slowly and put down their spoons between bites.

They did not know the food and water was weighed before and after the meal to determine the amount consumed.


•When eating quickly, the women consumed 646 calories in about nine minutes.

•When eating more slowly, they had an average of 579 calories in about 29 minutes.

"They ate 67 calories more in nine minutes than they did in 29 minutes," says lead researcher Kathleen Melanson, director of the university's Energy Metabolism Laboratory. "If you add that up over three meals a day, that's a big difference in calories."

Upon completion of the meal and an hour afterward, the women were less satisfied and hungrier when eating quickly compared with when they ate slowly, she says. They said they enjoyed the meal more when they were taking their time.

Not surprisingly, the women drank more water when they ate more slowly, and researchers are doing a follow-up study on whether that factor contributed to their feeling of fullness.

One way to help control calorie intake during Thanksgiving "is to slow down and savor and enjoy your food more," Melanson says.

"Put down the fork between bites and take time to have a conversation and linger over the meal," she says.

But Barbara Rolls, a nutrition professor at Pennsylvania State University, says another study showed that people who paused between bites actually consumed more food during a meal.

"Eating rate is hard to change, so eat at a pace that maximizes your enjoyment of the food," Rolls says. "If slowing down and savoring the flavors and textures of foods leaves you feeling more satisfied, go for it."

Still, there are reasons not to stuff yourself too quickly at the Thanksgiving feast.

"Satiety signals take time to be experienced, so after you have eaten an amount of food that should be satisfying, you may want to wait 15 to 20 minutes before deciding if you are still hungry," Rolls says.

KINGSTON, R.I. – November 15, 2006 – For more than 30 years, dieters have been told to eat slowly to reduce their intake of food. But until now, there has been no scientific evidence to support the theory.

“It started in about 1972 as a hypothesis that eating slowly would allow the body time for the development of satiety [fullness] and we would eat less,” said Kathleen Melanson, assistant professor of nutrition and food science at the University of Rhode Island. “Since then we’ve heard it everywhere and it has become common knowledge. But no studies had been conducted to prove it.”

In fact, early evidence suggested the opposite to be true. In the 1990s, one study examined the role of small bite sizes and found no effects, while a study of pauses between bites actually showed increased food consumption with more pauses.

But a laboratory study of college-age women over the past year led by Melanson confirmed the long-held belief. The results were reported in October by research intern Ana Andrade at the annual meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity.

In the study, 30 women made two visits to Melanson’s lab, and each time they were given a large plate of pasta and told to eat as much as they wanted. When they were told to eat quickly, they consumed 646 calories in nine minutes, but when they were encouraged to pause between bites and chew each mouthful 15 to 20 times, they ate just 579 calories in 29 minutes.

“Satiety signals clearly need time to develop,” Melanson concluded. “Not only did the women take in fewer calories when they ate more slowly, they had a greater feeling of satiety at meal completion and 60 minutes afterwards, which strongly suggests benefits to eating more slowly.” The women also judged themselves as having enjoyed the meal more when they ate slowly than when they ate quickly, Melanson added.

One potentially confounding factor in the study was that the volunteers were provided water to drink with their meal, and when eating slowly they had considerably more time to drink before completing their meal. The greater consumption of water might have contributed to satiety under the slow condition. However, Melanson said that this factor reflects the real-world situation, since eating slowly allows more time for water consumption. She will conduct follow-up studies next spring that factor in water consumption as well as the consumption of higher calorie beverages like soft drinks or juices.

Additional studies will be conducted in 2007 to determine if there are different results for other groups of individuals. Melanson also plans to study “the physiological signals that suppress hunger or enhance satiety to see if there is a mechanistic explanation for our results.”

And again, always keep in mind and follow the golden rule: to avoid overeating never ever wait until you are truly ravenous! Otherwise all other rules of intuitive nutrition such as calorie count, portion control, and slow eating will never be followed.

Good luck!!!

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