These days, a lot of us feel like we’re struggling to control our appetite. There is often the impression that appetite causes us to eat more than we want to, and leads to weight gain. As a result, many of us approach the situation from the perspective of reining appetite in.
It’s not hard to understand why so many of us take this approach. It makes us feel like we have a greater sense of control—like we will attain the bodies we want (whether that means eradicating body fat or just maintaining our current weight) if we can simply get a handle on our appetite.
Of course, what we’re really hoping to get by achieving the “perfect” body is love, acceptance, and approval from others. And at first glance, controlling our appetite may seem like an easier way to get those things than addressing the deeper, underlying issues or insecurities that cause us to feel we’re not worthy of love and acceptance unless we lose weight.
It looks like there are a lot of good reasons to keep our appetite in check. We supposedly won’t gain weight, we might even lose weight and, we believe, we’ll convince people to like us. So what’s the secret to controlling appetite? Well, the answer is, you don’t. Instead, you should welcome it. Here are a few ways to do that:
Appetite is natural. There’s nothing wrong with looking forward to a wonderful meal. It’s part of a healthy lifestyle. Think about how you feel when you’re sick—you probably don’t have much of an appetite at those times. It means you’re enjoying your food. It’s one thing to try put an end to overeating, but reining in your appetite is, in a way, diminishing your pleasure.
What most of us fear is not really appetite per se, but appetite for the wrong foods, or expressed inappropriately (for example, when we binge eat or overeat). Start eating high-quality, nutrient dense foods and slow down when you eat to bring a greater awareness to your meals. This will help you refine your appetite, so that you see it as a signal that it’s time not to eat just anything, but to nourish your body with healthy foods and the nutrients it needs.
Appetite is a form of body wisdom and an expression of our deeper, intuitive understanding. Don’t dismiss it. If you’re noticing your appetite increasing, examine your diet and lifestyle. Maybe there are foods you would benefit from reducing or adding in. Maybe your demanding schedule makes it difficult to eat during the day, and it would be helpful for you to think of easy ways to bring snacks and meals to work. Often times, appetite is our body’s way of sending us a message, and it’s important that we listen.
In many ways, this is connected to trusting it. When does your appetite seem to flare up? When does it seem diminished? Are there emotional stressors that cause a change in your appetite? Are there certain foods that always seem to leave you feeling hungrier or more full than usual? How do changes in your habits and daily routine impact how your feel? Your appetite can be a window into larger issues in your life and areas where you might need to heal.
Don’t connect it to weight.
In reality, your appetite has nothing to do with the number on the scale. Having an appetite won’t cause you to gain weight, if you nourish it with a balanced, healthy diet. In fact, believing you need to ignore your appetite and deprive yourself is the kind of thinking that often leads to boomerang behavior like binge eating.
Stop fighting it.
Having an appetite does not make you a morally inferior or a less lovable person. It is not the enemy. When you begin to criticize yourself, remember that there are many potential benefits that come along with having an appetite. It tells you when your body needs something, or when there’s a positive change that could be made in your lifestyle. Remember that it is normal and natural, and nothing to be ashamed of.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
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