In this science post we are continuing the conversation on digestion (who knew there was so much to discuss?!?!) and will be exploring the fascinating function of our migrating motor complex or MMC, and the concept of hunger.
Your stomach is “growling”, is this a sign that you are hungry and need to eat?
Many of us growing up have learned to associate our stomach “growling” or noises coming from our abdomen, with hunger and the need to eat! In fact, many of us feel the immediate need to take action and eat as soon as we receive these signals from our bodies. But does this mean we are hungry and we should eat? This is one of the most common questions that our members have when they begin the journey of the Livy Method as they initiate the process of becoming more in tune with their bodies.
So, why do our stomachs and abdomens make these noises, and how do we distinguish some of the things that our body does (like our stomach churning, rumbling and growling) with the actual need to eat? Is it because we are hungry?
The feeling of “hunger” is fairly complex and can be affected by many things. Hunger can be influenced by physical/physiological, emotional, social, economic and mental factors, and can be a difficult thing to gauge at times.
In fact, many of us have lost touch with our hunger signals at a young age or never really become in tune with them in the first place. We may have become so detached from understanding or recognizing these cues because of the influence of our family, social/economic factors, years of dieting and cycles of deprivation, over training and exercise, and eating when we are not hungry because we are following a set number of calories or macros determined by others in the diet industry. It's no wonder that we do not even know where to start!
But not to worry!! These signals are still there, and an imperative part of The Livy Method process is reconnecting our members with these very important signals that their body provides to them.
How can you get back in touch with your hunger signals?
Journaling and self-reflection
The Livy Method recommends journaling as a complementary process to the program as it can have a great benefit to the overall weight loss process. Also, as we mention in the science post Issues with Digestion (stay tuned for that post), can help identify any foods that have an impact on your digestion, as well as identify potential intolerances.
Journaling your feels/emotions and highlighting external factors such as stress, exercise/activity, and boredom can give you great insight into how your feelings, patterns, or behaviours, may influence your eating when not necessarily hungry. Using the traditional pen to paper process, or using the WLBG APP is a great way to do this!
If you are the type of person that needs a more quantitative (quantitative data refers to any information that can be quantified, counted or measured, and given a numerical value) way of understanding things, the use of a measurement tool such as a hunger scale may be of benefit to you!
A hunger scale is a tool that can help you learn how to identify the difference between actual physical hunger and the “feeling” of hunger that may be brought on by emotions like stress, boredom, sadness, or happiness.
Checking in and asking yourself the first two Mindfulness questions is a great way to assess this; but let's take this a step further by using a hunger scale.
Check out an example of a great hunger scale from Alberta Health Services! There are also additional questions and considerations that can help clarify the concept of eating to satisfaction.
Before you eat, ask yourself if you are hungry?
When serving or portioning out your food and before you eat ask yourself; How is this portion for me? How would I feel if I ate all of this?
When you start feeling like you want something to eat, rate your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being overwhelmingly hungry and 10 being so full you feel sick. A rating of 5 or 6 means you are comfortable, neither too hungry nor too full. When you feel hungry even though you recently ate, check to see if what you are feeling is really a craving brought on by something psychological or emotional. The goal is to bring awareness to your changing hunger levels. For example, sometimes you are really hungry but then when you eat, you feel full fast. Other times you are not hungry at all, but when you start to eat, you feel hungry. Both are completely normal to experience.
You may not get a really strong response or any answer from your body at first, but trust that once you begin this process of talking to yourself and taking the time to listen, your body will start to talk back.