Hello hello! This is a topic near and dear to my heart. As you all know, I’m not a medical expert and I’m not going to try to tell you if you need to eat more or not. This is just me drawing from my personal experience with needing to eat more over the summer in the hopes that you’ll be able to get something out of it too.
One of the reasons I think it’s important to keep talking about it is that eating more is not something that’s exactly encouraged in our diet-minded society. Read: it’s pretty much deemed evil.
Another reason is that our lives change. From year to year, month to month, day to day. I know I’ve thought many times, “oh yeah, I totally know what/how much I need to eat for the rest of my life.” And while it’s true that I’d found what worked for me for that stretch of time, there’s no way I’ll ever be able to know exactly how much I’ll need to eat on any given day prior to that day.
So how do you know if you need to eat more? Like I said, I’m not a medical expert, but here are a few cues I’ve noticed for myself.
You might need to eat more if…
You’re hungry all the time.
Okay, pretty obvious right? But we’re told time and time again to suppress our hunger because it’s not “real.” You know, your meal and exercise plan said you could only eat x for breakfast and can only eat y for lunch four hours later, but you’re hungry, NOW. But since your meal/exercise plan didn’t give you permission to grab a snack, obviously that means your hunger isn’t valid. *voice dripping in sarcasm*
For reals though, our bodies are smart. Back at the beginning of summer, I had to adjust from my school schedule to my work schedule. That involved adjusting my meal timings and what I ate when as well. It worked for me to pack a huge salad to eat during an hour’s break between classes, but for working in a restaurant where lunch is the busiest time of the day, that wasn’t feasible.
So I decided to just pack snacks instead of a full on lunch and eat when I got home. It was fine.
Until it wasn’t fine (like all of three days later). I started getting extremely hungry and when I got home, I’d feel like I had to eat 3x what I normally would in order to feel full. But, for a little while, I stuck to this eating pattern that was obviously not working for me because it had “worked” for a couple days.
But after that little while of feeling hungry all. the. time. I decided hey, enough’s enough, bottom line is I need to eat more.
You get headaches, feel low on energy, etc.
For me, ev-er-y problem manifests itself in a headache. Tired? Headache. Dehydrated? Headache. Stressed? Headache. Not eating enough during the day? Headache.
Sometimes, I don’t feel the normal sensations of hunger–stomach feeling empty, etc. But I get a headache. Or I feel sluggish. That’s my cue to eat something and chug some water.
Another related cue? When I was at work, if I started to feel irrationally irritated at customers for coming in the door, it meant it was definitely time to eat something, ASAP. (Hanger is real.)
Try to figure out what cues your body gives you along with the “normal” sensations of hunger.
You can’t stop thinking about food.
This is a big one. Keeping to my summer job example, if I didn’t eat enough during the day, I could not stop thinking about food. It’s hard to focus on anything when your mind is preoccupied with food.
Okay, so maybe you relate to one (or two or all) of these and you think, “yeah, maybe I should eat more during the day.” But you’re also thinking, “how?” I know it’s easier said than done. I wrote a post about overcoming the mental barriers to eating more (read it here), but another one of my own setbacks has been making it work with my schedule. It’s easier at home, but out and about? I found myself grabbing some almonds and an apple on my way out the door, thinking, “oh yeah, this’ll hold me over.” And then an hour later realizing, um, no, that will not hold me over.
I know, I know. It’s not that hard to prep in advance. Not every meal has to be a gourmet experience (see this post or this one). Still, I like to make most of my meal experiences as pleasant as possible because it leaves me satisfied. Obviously, these may not apply to you and your schedule, but if you’d like, here are a few tips and tricks I use for making my meals and snacks work with my schedule.
Smoothies. Smoothies have been a lifesaver this last year. Driver’s ed videos scared the heck out of me, so I don’t like to eat and drive. But I sure will smoothie and drive. Of course, downing a smoothie while driving isn’t the ideal, buuuuuut it’s a lot better than going without. And honestly, I kind of like driving somewhere in the morning, sipping my smoothie. Smoothies were also a lifesaver at work because I could sip on one when it wasn’t busy. Basically, there’s a lower level of risk/commitment when you’re drinking a smoothie. If a customer comes in, you just gulp down your sip. If you’re chomping into an apple right when someone walks in, you’ve still got a whole lot of chewing to do. Other food service workers, ya feel me.
Packing more than I think I’ll need. This is especially true for snacks. Not only do I have more options, I’m not stuck somewhere without food on a day when I’m extra hungry.
Prepping in advance. I am the queen of un-meal-prepping, so I’m not going to preach at you to prep all your meals Sunday night. But even just tossing some cashews into a bag or some yogurt into a container the night before makes the morning all the easier.
Setting aside a little extra money for buying food out. I know this isn’t feasible for everyone. But I found that some crazy days will inevitably happen, crazy days where you’re super hungry and didn’t pack enough, and having a little extra set aside makes for a whole lot less stress.
And because I’m definitely not a pro at any of this, I’d love to hear your advice! What other symptoms of hunger do you get, besides the “normal” ones? What are your tips and tricks for balancing meals with a busy schedule?
Linking up for Thinking out Loud! Have a lovely rest of your week!