This is a fabulous exercise that I personally use every time my fiancé makes popcorn... and he makes popcorn a lot. I will suddenly smell the ghee wafting through the house and my ears perk up as I begin to hear the kernels popping. As I await the sound of the beloved salt shaker, a little devil pops up onto my shoulder and tries to convince me that life is not worth living without popcorn. I feel the chaos building inside of me... the compulsion to eat the popcorn is so strong!
This is when I turn inward and do The Hunger Check.
How To Do The Hunger Check
It doesn't matter where you are. If you are standing or sitting is irrelevant.
1. Close your eyes and take a couple of slow deep breaths while feeling the weight of your body being supported by the floor or chair. Feel your body begin to relax. With each exhale relax your shoulders.
2. Bring your attention to your chest, feel your chest rise as you inhale, and fall as you exhale. Feel your attention move inward, away from external stimulants to your internal body.
3. Now, bring your attention to your stomach area. Imagine a scale of 0 - 10, where 0 is absolutely famished and 10 is painfully full (also known as The Good Decisions Hunger Scale). Take a few moments to consider where on this scale describes how hungry or how full you are right now. Be curious. If any judgment arises as to how you “should” or “shouldn’t” feel, just simply notice it, as there is no right or wrong answer. Where is your body at? Be honest with yourself.
Open your eyes. Did you feel how you shifted from your head-space into your body? This is where hunger resides; in the gut, not in the head. It is a feeling process not a thinking process.
Be careful when feeling the urge to eat because the mind is cunning. You may experience it fantasizing about the next meal, but this is not real hunger. Hunger does not come from the mind; it comes from the gut. Hunger is physical, not mental. You may be thinking you are hungry, but often you may not actually be feeling any physical hunger. When you tune into your physical body and ask the question, “Am I hungry?”, many times the honest answer will be no. If you then choose not to eat in that moment, the mind will likely kick, scream and throw a temper tantrum. Just let it be. Watch with interest and curiosity how the mind reacts.
This presents an opportunity to be curious and ask, “What is it I am actually hungry for?" Hunger is synonymous with desire and can be the gateway to acknowledging what we really hunger for in life.
The more often you practice shifting from your head-space back into your body, the more successful The Hunger Check will be in helping you to make informed decisions about eating. This exercise takes less than a minute, and can take you out of the chaos of your mind and into the calmness of sensing where your body is at and what it wants.
Most of the time... my body does not want popcorn. Rather, my mind wants the equally satisfying "comfort food" of a relaxing movie night at home with a loved one.
Next time you have an intense craving, ask yourself... what are you truly hungry for?