This month I have been focusing on optimising my nutrition. Although what we eat is really important, for many people changing ‘how’ they eat can be just as effective a strategy as changing ‘what’ they eat.
Here’s an activity I often do with my health coaching clients to help them learn to recognise their physiological hunger and fullness cues. It’s called The Broccoli Test.
While babies and small children are usually excellent at knowing when they want to eat or don’t, most of us now eat based on social norms, advertising, what’s around us, and our family/friends/peers. We eat when:
- It’s a certain time
- It’s a certain event (or no event in particular)
- It’s a certain emotional situation (or we’re bored)
- We’re reminded of food (which is nearly always)
Most of us have no idea what physical hunger and/or fullness actually feel like. We have no appetite awareness. Few people start eating when they’re truly physically hungry and stop when they’re physically satisfied. It’s normal to be out of tune with physiological hunger cues.
But basic appetite awareness is one of the most useful and accurate ways you can recognise how much food your body needs. When you learn to recognise these cues, eating becomes much simpler and more intuitive.
Here’s a simple but powerful way to determine if you’re physically or emotionally hungry.
The Broccoli Test
Simply ask yourself this question:
“Would I eat broccoli right now?”
If the answer is yes then you are physically hungry. Go ahead and eat.
If you answer no then you’re emotionally hungry. You are not actually hungry for food. You are hungry for something else (stress relief, a distraction, a quick escape, etc.)
The idea is that when we’re physically hungry any food is appealing. If the thought of vegetables doesn’t sound appealing we’re not physically hungry.
How Hungry / Full Am I?
Try tracking for at least one meal per day:
- How hungry are you when you start eating?
- How full/satisfied are you once you have finished eating?
If you need to lose weight you could aim to finish eating when you feel 80% full. This might mean you leave just a little food behind on your plate so that you don’t finish the meal feeling “stuffed” or uncomfortably full.
If you want to maintain weight you can aim for 90-100% full, or satiated but not stuffed.
If you need to gain weight you can aim to feel slightly uncomfortably full, or 110-120% full.
Notice how easy or difficult you find it to stop eating when you are physically full. (You may notice that it’s much easier to stop eating real food when you are full, and much harder when the food is processed).
Taking in the Good (write down three good things that have happened or that you have noticed)
- Walking my dog in the rain and taking in how lush and green everything looked today.
- Going bowling after school with the kids and enjoying their excitement.
- Feeling grateful that I have such lovely colleagues at work.
What good things will you remember about today, the only Monday 21st June 2021 we will ever have?