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SEATTLE - We are all spending a lot more time at home these days, and with mounting stress and holiday foods now constantly at our fingertips, we may find ourselves eating more often than we normally would, So are we are actually hungry, or just bored?
Hillary Lauren is the Well-Being Coordinator at Regence and she says, “This psychological hunger is a desire to eat without the physical signs that our body truly needs food.”
Lauren says this psychological hunger can lead to overeating things like potato chips, candy and other unhealthy items that can bring comfort rather than fruits and vegetables that will bring nourishment to the body.
So why does this false hunger creep up on all of us, and have us hovering over the pantry?
“Boredom, thirst, lack of sleep, stress, being around people that are eating and smelling the food, or watching tv or scrolling through social media and seeing images of food.”
How can we determine if it’s a psychological hunger or a true physical hunger?
First, Lauren says do a mental check with yourself, “Did you recently eat a meal? What emotions are you feeling right now? And are you feeling a true hunger pains, is your belly growling?”
Lauren says while you are working to figure out if you are actually hungry, get some movement in… if you’re just bored, it will help build a physical hunger. Now, if you are actually hungry you should eat! But, if you determine you are just bored, or stressed, the he easiest thing you can do is drink a full glass of water and then wait 10 to 20 minutes. This will give your brain time to get the signal from your body that it was just thirsty.
“Keep your hands occupied during this timeframe, by doing some movement or perhaps taking up crocheting, doing some puzzles or some other fun activity to keep your hands busy while staying off social media.”
Now if late night snacking is more your thing while binge watching your favorite show it is most likely a psychological hunger brought on by what you’re watching, social media included. So, here are some ways Lauren says we can curb those cravings:
After you eat, wait about 30 minutes and then brush your teeth. The clean mouth feeling will make it less likely that you will reach for sweets and snacks. Sip peppermint or cinnamon tea. Consider other non-sugary drinks and don’t forget to drink plenty of water with your meals.
Next, Eat mindfully. Lauren says really savor your food and eat slowly. Wait 10 to 20 minutes before going back for seconds. That will give your brain time to pick up the signal that you’re full. For some, scheduling the days meals or having a meal plan for the week can help. You can also assign which snacks you will have. Another thing you can do is remove the tempting items from your line of sight when you go into the kitchen. Instead, have plenty of fruits and vegetables front and center and ready to grab, so when you do need a snack, it is actually something that will feed your body.
And finally, get some gentle yoga in or do some light stretching. You might even consider journaling.
Lauren says if you have tried all of these things, you still feel like you’re out of control with food or if you’re using food to control your emotions you could seek professional help, “There are many people out there who are more than willing and happy to provide you with support you need.”
So the next time you are bored, or stressed, steer clear of social media, do a mental check in, and really think about what you need.
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