Spring is here, and with it more time outdoors and looking forward to summer plans. So what can we do to get in shape?

One thing is to change our exercise habits. We may be a bit out of shape from the winter, so now is the time to take advantage of the nicer weather and engage in outdoor exercise that gets our muscles moving and our heart pumping.

The other thing we can examine is our eating habits. Over the winter, it’s easy to put on some weight when we find ourselves eating out of boredom, as part of our schedule and routine, or as a social activity, even if we’re not really hungry.

That is definitely something we want to change. To begin, it takes mindfulness of those patterns, as well as awareness of what our bodies and minds are really desiring.

Are You Really Hungry?

Just because you have the “I’m hungry” thought doesn’t mean it’s true.

Are you truly hungry? If you think you’re hungry for a cookie, but wouldn’t eat an apple instead, you may really want a cookie, but you’re not really hungry.

Johnny, eat your peas and carrots.

I can’t. I’m full.

Oh, I see. Then I guess you don’t have room for ice cream.

NO! I have room for dessert, just not for peas and carrots.

There are various kinds of appetite that masquerade as hunger:

Are Your Eyes Hungry?

Does the picture of a deep-dish pizza on TV have you picking up the phone for a delivery? Do you really need to take everything that looks good at the buffet, or are your eyes too big for your stomach?

Is Your Nose Hungry?

Do you smell French fries as you’re walking through the mall and head for the Food Court, even though you already had lunch? Do you smell popcorn and get in line, even though the movie has started and you just finished supper?

Is Your Mind Hungry?

Did you notice that it’s past your usual lunchtime, but thought, “I’d better have something to eat,” and made a beeline for the fridge? Even though you’re no longer hungry, do you think, “I should finish what’s on my plate”?

Sights, smells and thoughts about eating can trigger your appetite. They can make you think you’re hungry, even when you’re not.

Remember to use mindful awareness to take a step back and recognize what you’re actually experiencing. That will give you the space and time to choose how to respond rather than react.

You can try the following activity that I introduced in my diet book (along with plenty of other ways to make it easier to watch your weight):

Go through a checklist when you think about eating, and ask yourself, “Am I truly hungry, or:

  • Are my eyes hungry? Does what I want to eat just look good? Would I feel the same about eating something healthier instead? Do I need to take that large a portion?”
  • Is my nose hungry? Is the smell of food triggering a craving? Is it something I had planned to eat?”
  • Is my mind hungry? Am I eating because of the time? Am I eating because others are eating? Am I eating for comfort from stress or emotions?”

Click here for a list of eight types of hunger as described by Jan Chozen Bays. Come up with your own list of things that trigger your thoughts about eating. And before you eat, always ask yourself, “Am I truly hungry?”

How do your eating habits change when spring and summer arrive? Do you recognize your hunger triggers and employ ways to avoid them? Please share your best practices to keep unproductive hunger away.

Joseph ParentDr. Joseph Parent is a highly regarded expert in Applied Mindfulness and Performance Psychology. He is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, performance coach and media commentator. His latest book is THE BEST DIET BOOK EVER: The Zen of Losing Weight. He offers personal sessions for sports, life and/or executive coaching.

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