4/28/15

Appetite Awareness


As athletes, our appetite can be a bit interesting at times.
Have you ever been so hungry you can't even think straight?
Sometimes it feels like we can never feel satisfied whereas other times, the appetite is non existent.
So weird, right?

As you are aware from experience, your appetite is important because it regulates food intake and helps you fuel your active lifestyle. It drives you to eat and it also tells you when you can stop eating.
Your appetite can also affect your mood  - it's likely that there are times when your friends/family just know that you are hungry.

Although the appetite mechanism works well to help you meet your body's energy and nutrient needs, it is likely that as an athlete, you feel that you do not have a "normal" appetite.

Far too often, athletes put blame on themselves for not eating the "right" things at the "right" times. They get mad at their body for being hungry too often or for getting too full.
There is so much guilt, frustration and concerns with eating that it can eventually cause an athlete to experience disordered eating symptoms or dread/hate the act of eating. Some athletes are so frustrated with how to eat for health, body composition and performance goals that the most simple option or last resort is to just stop eating. 

Maybe you feel that you have the inconsistent ability to understand your appetite and that makes you feel as if you are not eating enough or eating too much all the time. Rather than food enhancing your life, it may feel like food is controlling your life.

As you can see, as an athlete, the appetite can be extremely confusing and misleading. 

Let's be honest, you are not always to blame when it comes to food choices. 
Increased portion sizes, food advertising, food in every holiday/work/event setting and other social factors can drive how you eat. Far too often, athletes get so obsessed with what they shouldn't eat because food is everyone and this can heighten a very unhealthy relationship with food. 

When you think you aren't hungry and you are presented with food, you may find yourself all of a sudden, hungry or you can't resist yourself. When you eat something that you feel you shouldn't have eaten or eaten too much, you may say to yourself that you feel gross, fat, guilty and even depressed. You may often find that you "feel" a certain way after you eat and this is something that every athlete needs to focus on - why is the food you eat making you feel this way?
Is it the food or your relationship with food or how you are eating, when you are eating, what you are eating?

When you have healthy relationship with food, you feel better after you eat than before and that meal or snack serves a purpose. It nourishes you, it keeps you satisfied, it controls blood sugar and it helps fuel your active lifestyle. And when you indulge responsibly, you don't feel guilty when eating. 

So, are you aware of your appetite and when you are biologically hungry and need to eat/fuel versus when you don't need food in your body? 
Are you able to identify times when you are eating for reasons beyond fueling and nourishing?

Do you find that you will consciously not eat when you feel hungry because you are watching the clock as to the "right" time to eat or trying to save calories or feeling too busy to eat but yet after you eat a meal, you can't help but have dessert or that something extra?

We don't need to blame gluten, carbs or food groups for your eating habits. For many athletes, there is a clear disconnect as to why you are actually eating, what you are eating. 

To reduce overeating and to help you gain a better relationship with food, it is important that you take responsibility for your eating actions. Hopefully you are never forced to eat something and can politely say no thank you but because you do deserve to indulge every now and then, pay better attention of the physical signs of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction as it relates to how you eat. 

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So what if there were ways to help you better understand your appetite as it relates to when you need to eat, what you need to eat and how much you need to eat? 

Stay tuned for my next blog post for some tips on managing your appetite.