At the time of writing, a typical day’s eating for me is lunch at 1pm, dinner at 7pm, and a dessert afterwards (I skip breakfast). I will typically feel a little peckish at around 5pm, but I know that I do not need food at that time. After all, dinner is only a couple of hours away. However, my brain often needs reminding of that fact, which is why I sometimes turn to my strategy of ‘sensory overload’. I’m going to reveal that strategy in this article.
The thinking behind sensory overload is based upon the fact that my hunger pangs are not ‘real’, in a sense that they do not reflect a genuine need for food. It has been argued that the human body can exist in a fasted state for days before triggering the much-maligned starvation response. When we experience hunger pangs, we are not dealing with a life-or-death situation – we are dealing with an unpleasant sensation that should be dealt with appropriately.
My strategy of sensory overload is foolproof in the sense that if you are still experiencing hunger pangs when you have completed the process, you can be sure that you are genuinely hungry and should perhaps therefore eat something. However, the chances are that you will rarely get to that point.
I’m not going to pretend like this process is complicated – it is about as simple as it gets. But its simplicity does not detract from its effectiveness. Just follow these five steps:
- Drink a tall glass of water
- Drink a cup of tea or coffee
- Eat a piece of fruit (like an apple or a banana)
- Eat a healthy low-calorie snack (like a Nakd Bar – my personal favourite)
- Drink a tall glass of water
The idea here is that you are overloading your senses with a number of stimuli – a variety of tastes, textures, and even temperatures, not to mention a considerable volume of liquid. Hunger pangs are often psychological (e.g. you crave chocolate because you like the taste) or habitual (e.g. you experience hunger pangs at lunchtime because your body is used to eating then, not because you need to eat) rather than physical, and overloading your senses with a variety of food can coax your brain back into a state of perceived satiety.
If you follow the above five steps and are still hungry after fifteen minutes or so, feel free to eat something more substantial. You’re almost certainly hungry in a physiological sense. But the chances of you still wanting to eat at that point (regardless of whether you actually feel hungry) will be pretty slim – you should feel pretty full.
This can also be a great process to follow when you are tempted to snack on unhealthy foods. Allow yourself to eat your snack of choice, but only after you have followed the above five steps. Once you’re done with the five steps, you may not feel like it anymore.
Finally, in the spirit of my guidelines for cooking, don’t be afraid to mix the process up to suit your own needs. The single key consideration is that the steps should only involve healthy, low-calorie food items.