Here’s a useful “hunger self-assessment” tool that is useful for everyone, but especially children, as it helps them recognize — and become familiar with — varying levels of hunger.
Before instinctively opening your refrigerator or pantry, take a few seconds to imagine that your closed fist represents your stomach at its fullest.
Now, put up different amounts of fingers to represent the degree of hunger you are currently experiencing.
For example, one-finger’s-worth of hunger means you are almost full, while four fingers represent being hungry for a full meal.
A few people who use this tool on a regular basis have told me this is helpful in identifying when hunger is emotional, rather than physical.
Someone (who has asked to remain anonymous) recently shared this anecdote with me via e-mail:
“Yesterday night I was working on a manuscript on my computer and really wanted ice cream. I already had some after dinner an hour earlier, so before I opened the freezer door I used the ‘closed fist’ method you told me about. When I actually stopped to THINK about it, I wasn’t hungry. In reality, I had all sorts of feelings, positive and negative, about finishing up my manuscript. So I instead turned to my best de-stresser: sketching.”
As with many other things, the answer to this question lies within you.