healthy protein bar next to a laptop to honour practical hunger

In today’s fast-paced world, no one has an extra minute. And many times, the hustle makes us ignore healthy and timely eating. Let’s face it, we are all guilty of this. That’s why I like to keep practical hunger as a tool in my weight loss arsenal. It helps me have one of the most important conversations with my body…
‘How full do I feel right now?’ and ‘How hungry am I going to get in a bit?’ 

It is important to ask these questions to ensure I keep my hunger in check. Thus, avoid any impulsive eating, which is often the biggest barrier to weight loss.
If you want to understand the hungry cues your body is giving you, check out this article.

So, what is Practical Hunger?

Practical hunger is when you aren’t hungry but know it would be wiser to eat now to avoid getting super hungry later. 
It isn’t your typical ‘type of hunger’. Think of it as a counselling session with your body. A conversation that will help you anticipate your body’s needs and let you decide what’s best for it.

Let me share a real-life example to show practical hunger in action:

Scenario 1: Where I didn’t honour practical hunger 

It’s a busy day at work, I am busy creating a digital marketing strategy for a prospective client. I had breakfast an hour back and am now going to get into a 2-hour long meeting. I am not hungry right now, so I go for the meeting without giving food any thought. 

woman presenting in a meeting

By the time I come out of that meeting room I am a ravenous predator. Eating whatever I can lay my hands on. And soon, as the immediate hunger subsides the guilty kicks in. #DayRuined

Scenario 2: Where I honoured practical hunger 

I am not hungry just yet, but I do know that I will get famished in an hour or so. So, I eat a handful of nuts or grab an energy bar. 2 hours later as I walk out of the room, I am in control of my hunger and can make rational choices of when and what I want to eat next while focusing on my work.

Other examples: 

  • You have to get onto a long flight, and the onboard food menu isn’t appetizing and healthy. 
  • You need to attend a social event where you aren’t sure of the agenda. Thus, don’t know when you will get to eat. 
  • You have to take medication which requires you to eat food.
some walnuts and biscuits as quick and healthy snack options

How can practical hunger help with weight loss?

Practical hunger can be a very useful tool as it helps you avoid making irrational food choices. There are occasions where you don’t have access to food for a long time (as explained in the scenarios above). Situations like these can make your hunger reach an extreme point where you lose control over yourself, aka ‘The Hangry Level’. You know you’re not making any rational decisions around food when you reach that level.

But, should you eat even when you’re not hungry?

Even though you’re trying to lose weight, it’s okay to eat when you’re not hungry. There are times when it’s rather advisable. As explained above, if you’re going to be in a place with no access to food for a long time, it’s a good idea to eat something beforehand. This also helps you control your appetite.

How can practical hunger help you in your daily life?

1. Stick to your weight loss goals

Practical hunger is a ‘practical’ way to deal with our busy lives. We do a ton of different things every day. From managing office work to leisure travel to keeping up with social engagements. All this can make sticking to a weight loss plan very difficult. Check out Total Shape to create a workout plan that’s customized for your fitness goals So, this is where we can use practical hunger.

Personal Anecdotes:

  • When I am travelling, I always carry along a stack of healthy snacks. That doesn’t mean I don’t look forward to exploring the town/city I am in and trying all the local delicacies. It just helps me feel more prepared in case I know something isn’t of my liking, at least I have a back-up option and am not forced to eat calories I don’t enjoy. 
  • On a flight, even if it is only 2 hours, I always carry a home-cooked meal. I hate being a victim of “I am sorry ma’am, this is all that’s available in vegetarian food.” 
  • I love long drives, but they often make me stop at random shops and buy junk food. I find carrying healthy & tasty snacks a great strategy to minimize the intake of these extra calories.

2. Be more productive

When you are super hungry, the only thing you can think of is food. So, eating practically can help you take your mind off of food and be more focused on the task at hand.

3. Escape the taste hunger trap

There is no way to avoid temptation. If you are passing by a bakery and smell freshly baked cookies, you will want to have them. But at that very moment, if you are relatively full, the decision to walk away wouldn’t be that difficult. 

4. Have a better social life

Socialising is often one of the biggest reasons to slack off when it comes to being ‘healthy’. I used to be a victim of this and avoided socialising because I feared I would end up eating crap calories. But I now ensure that I eat before heading out. This makes the french fries slightly less tempting and so much easier to stick to healthy eating.

Be in the right mindset for weight loss

While there are so many more benefits that I can write here, the most important one is the mindset. By being thoughtful about practical hunger, not only can you lower your temptation to cheat, but also ensure that you are strategically working towards reaching your weight loss goals every single day. 

Hope this article helped you be more thoughtful about your hunger. If you are interested in learning more about types of hungers, click here.

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