By Naomi Rabon, NW Fitness Team Trainer
Food. Glorious, wonderful, delicious, comforting, happiness-on-a-plate food.
We all love food, right? Especially if we train hard, often and with high intensity, and have an appetite to match!
FEED ME, OR ELSE!
Sometimes it feels like your stomach is a separate animal living inside you with a mind all its own, that ends up taking over every single thought you have and dictates every single action – until you feed it.
Being hungry can equal being cranky, moody, snippy, and just down right “hangry.”
I don’t know about you, but I feel so infantile when I get hungry and cranky, like a 12-month old baby waking up in the middle of the night crying “Feed me! Feed me! I’m gonna DIE!” Then after I eat and satiate my hunger, I feel like the biggest idiot for acting like such a baby because I was hungry!
YOU’RE ONLY HUMAN AFTER ALL
I have good news and bad news: this is human nature and part of our survival mechanism … to a point.
Both hunger and satiety (the absence of hunger) are physical sensations dictating the level of our neurological perceived need for physical nourishment. Appetite, on the other hand according to Wikipedia, is … (drumroll) … the desire to eat food. If you throw desire or cravings in with the physical sensations of hunger and an innate need for survival, it’s easy to see why we give in to eating foods we know aren’t healthy for us, or will prevent us from reaching our fitness goals.
Craving something or having a desire for something means you experience an intense sense of longing and won’t feel at ease until you get whatever it is you are longing for. The psychological part of your appetite is the part that can destroy your fitness progress. When you have a desire for food, but your aren’t experiencing physical hunger, it generally won’t matter that you aren’t hungry. You still want that food, and you can’t stop thinking about it until you get it.
There’s that toddler again screaming “I want! I want! I want Oreos, not rice cakes!”
STEPS TO TAME THE BEAST
Understanding the difference between hunger and appetite is the first step in learning how to better control what, when and how much you eat. A large part of the struggles people have with food has more to do with the mental part of it – the enjoyment or pleasure of eating, and the desire for certain foods – than with the physical need for nourishment.
If it were simply about nourishment, we could all be perfectly happy with feeding tubes and not think twice about it because our bodies would be getting all the nourishment they need, right? Or if we got all of our necessary daily calories, macronutrients and micronutrients from a pill we took every morning, we could just go about the rest of our day and not thinkg about food until the next morning.
But what fun would that be?
TIPS FOR KEEPING YOUR NUTRITION UNDER CONTROL
If you want to conquer your eating habits once and for all and feel more in control of what you put in your mouth, here are five things you can do to help tame the hunger beast within:
1. Learn True Hunger
Next time you start thinking about grabbing something unhealthy to eat, ask yourself why. Is it because you have a set meal plan and it’s time for your next meal? Is it because you haven’t eaten in 4-5 hours and you are ‘starving?’ Or is it because you just want a certain food, even though you aren’t hungry? Being aware of what you are thinking and how you are feeling when it comes to food and eating is a great step in recognizing eating patterns and habits, which will help if you want to change those patterns and habits.
2. Stay Active
It is common for people to eat (snack or “graze”) out of boredom. Eating is mentally and physi-cally stimulating, so it can be a go-to activity when confronted with boredom.
So what can you do instead? Go for a walk around your neighborhood! Stretch. Go to the gym. Or go to a park with a walking trail or path – basically anything to keep active and busy, and keep your mind off food.
3. Get Help
If you truly feel you have an unhealthy relationship with food and can’t seem to get control over your nutrition, please seek out a nutrition counselor or other professional who can help you. Food addiction has the same psychological components as any other addiction and can be extremely serious and self-destructive. As with any addiction, these things take time and effort to resolve. But unlike most other addictions, we need food to survive which makes it even more difficult. Someone can cut out drugs or alcohol, but you can’t “quit food.”
4. Be Your Own Food Police Officer (or find an accountability buddy)
There are times when you are going to have to slap your own hand and say “get out of the cookie jar!” As toddlers, we had our parents to do that for us (and we cried because we wanted that cookie). But as grown-ups, we can eat a whole box of Girl Scout cookies and no one can tell us that we can’t!
But if you are serious about your fitness goals and tired of letting your cravings control you, you have to be your own “food police.” You have to tell yourself “NO! You can’t have that! I know you WANT it, but you can’t have it.” Or find an accountability buddy with the same goals so you can help each other stick to your meal plans.
5. Food Journal
I can’t tell you how effective this tool is in helping you stay on top of your nutrition. It keeps you honest and accountable and aware of all the things you’re putting in your body. It never fails that when clients stop food journaling, 99% of the time they start seeing a regression in their fitness goals. Food journaling will – for most people – keep you in control of your nutrition.
If you are just starting a new nutrition plan and are feeling physical hunger often, know that your body is going through and adjustment period and the hunger is most likely temporary. All of us are human, and all of us experience hunger. Even top competitors and athletes struggle at times when the hunger beast is constantly knocking on their skull saying “Feed Meeeeee!!!”
The difference is having steps in place to help get through it and recognize when it’s mental hun-ger and when it’s physical hunger.
Tip Me Tuesday: Take A Breather
Tip Me Tuesday: Fit Mind = Fit Body
Tip Me Tuesday: Find Your Fit
Tip Me Tuesday: Be A Goal Getter
Tip Me Tuesday: Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Tip Me Tuesday: The Process of Progress
ABOUT NAOMI RABON
One of the trainers on Nicole’s elite NW Fitness Training Team, Naomi is a certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is a NPC Figure competitor who has been involved in the health and fitness industry for over 12 years.