Hungry for a Healthy Weight?

As I hope we all know by now, there is no magic bullet when it comes to losing weight. The solution is simple, but certainly not easy to do. To lose weight we need to create an imbalance in the body’s caloric energy equation, or in plain English, we need to eat less (calories in) and move our bodies more (calories out). Many weight loss programs promise you won’t be hungry while you are eating less. From my point of view, I am not sure why feeling some amount of hunger is considered such a bad thing. Feeling hungry is a signal we can put to use to help us manage our weight. Here’s how:

• If you rarely or never experience feeling hungry, then you are most likely gaining weight.
• If you feel hungry on a daily basis for a short period of time before eating meals and snacks, then you are most likely maintaining your weight.
• If you feel hungry on a daily basis for longer periods of time before eating meals and/or snacks, then you are most likely losing weight.

Another strategy is to pinpoint where the hunger is coming from. When you feel hungry, place your hand on the part of your body that is experiencing hunger. If you place your hand on your abdomen, then most likely you are in need of a meal or a snack. Your stomach may even be growling! If, however, you place your hand over your mouth, you may not be hungry for food, but for something else. Try to take the time to distinguish between these two types of hunger for yourself. The feeling of being hungry at your mouth may very well be emotional in nature and could include:

• Boredom – Solution: instead of eating when you are bored, take your mind off of eating by jumping into a task that you’ve been meaning to take care of, taking a walk or getting some physical activity.
• Loneliness – Solution: instead of eating when you are lonely, call a friend or family member, invite someone to go for a walk, take care of a pet, read a book or magazine or go online.
• Stress – Solution: instead of eating when you are stressed, listen or dance to music;, go for a walk, or talk with someone about your day.
• Thirst – Solution: instead of eating, drink a glass of cool, refreshing water. Add a piece of lemon if desired.

Glass of Water
Glass of Water / Greg Riegler / CC BY 2.0

Once you determine that you are not really hungry for food, you can take steps to address the feelings you have. Beyond solving your thirst, drinking approximately eight cups of water a day if you are planning to lose weight is generally recommended. A good amount of our fluid needs are met from the foods we eat, so eating less means that we need to replace that fluid with water.

Although eating healthy is always important, it becomes even more so when you eat to lose weight. You have fewer calories to get all the nutrients your body needs. Eating nutritious foods that receive Guiding Stars, like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat milk and dairy foods, lean meats, fish and poultry, nuts, seeds and oils will help provide you with needed nutrients. There is no magic bullet for weight loss, but by incorporating these suggestions you can begin to reach your health goals, whatever they may be.

About our Nutrition Expert

Lori Kaley MS, RD, LD, MSB is a member of the Guiding Stars Scientific Advisory Panel. Lori has 30 years of combined experience working in healthcare and public health creating policies and environments to help families and children have access to healthy foods and beverages. She is currently Policy Associate at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service.

Lori’s greatest achievement and joy has been in raising her three daughters to be healthy and productive young adults, each with their own particular love of food, cooking and being physically active. Lori’s passion for nutritional community outreach has been a cornerstone of the Guiding Stars Scientific Advisory Panel. Lori regularly contributes to the Guiding Stars blog.