Satisfying mind hunger
Mind hunger is based upon thoughts and is influenced by information we take in from our senses – particularly our eyes and ears. Typical mind hunger thoughts include:
‘I should eat more protein’
‘I deserve some chocolate today’
‘I should drink 1.5 litres of water a day’
Mind hunger is often based upon absolutes and opposites i.e. good food versus bad food and what you should eat versus what you should not eat. However, becoming caught up in extremes can become a dangerous pattern, as you end up clinging on to certain foods and hating others. It is of course very true that some foods are more nutritious that other foods, but what really matters most is the quantity and frequency that certain foods are eaten. Blueberries, for example, are a nutrient dense fruit but if you were to eat tonnes of them every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you would set yourself up deficiencies in the nutrients that not found in blueberries and your body would soon be longing for more variety. Similarly, chocolate eaten daily in large amounts isn’t nutritionally advisable, but a small amount of chocolate on occasions is certainly fine, and not something that needs to be avoided for life in order to achieve good health. It is therefore often the middle way that emerges as the more sensible way to eat.
Many people have learned to choose food by numbers, such as by how many calories, carbs, protein, fats, RDAs or the price of food, rather than relying on their sense of taste and smell. When taken to the extreme, this sets the scene for a society of anxious eaters. When the mind is fretting about what you ‘should eat’ and ‘should not eat’ your enjoyment of what is actually being eaten evaporates. There are a number of great studies showing the power the mind has over our eating habits, and how easily people can be convinced to like or dislike certain foods based upon false information.
The ideal to eating the ‘middle way’ is to eat a nutritious diet, but to be mindful of your individual needs and to have a relaxed attitude towards food. For example, whilst most people might do best with 1.5 litres of water per day, if you go to the gym and sauna every day then your requirements will be higher. Similarly your needs might vary in the winter and summer months. Likewise, your mind might say ‘It’s 7pm, I need to have dinner’, but if your body isn’t hunger then why not wait until 8pm or later when it is hungry for dinner?
As with the other types of hunger already discussed in this blog, in order to reduce mind hunger and re-engaged in real body you first need to become aware of what your mind is tell you about your food. Before you eat, pause and look at your food and hear what your mind is saying about the foods. If you are hungry for the food, identify where in your body the hunger lies.
The difficulty with the mind is that it’s constantly changing. For example, one day it might decide that you need to diet, and the next day it convinces you that you need some chocolate cake. The mind also contains the inner critic, so can often end up criticising you no matter what you eat or drink. The mind is only truly content when it is quiet, when the many voices around eating are still and you can become fully present as you eat. When you are filled with awareness, you become filled with satisfaction. So take time to be still before and after eating to taste you food and how it makes you feel, rather that how you think it should make you feel.
Mind hunger affects everyone, but can be a particular problem in cases of binge eating and other disordered eating patterns. If you have a question about disordered eating then please do give us a call to see if we can help you, or to book a consultation at one of our London nutrition clinics.