Intuitive Eating: Am I Hungry?

Let’s face it, this pandemic has forged unprecedented challenges into everyone’s life.  However, new challenges can bring new opportunities. So, whether you are working from home attempting double duty with your job and homeschooling your kids, or you are an essential employee tasked with new responsibilities and workloads, or a mixture of both, there is something to learn in the midst of these perilous times.  I believe there is no better time than now to focus on what you can control and influence when it comes to maintaining or achieving good health and immunity. Your nutritional habits have tremendous power. Food can either be your pitfall or advantage.

Are you indulging in self-sabotaging habits such as binge drinking, late night snacking, and mindless eating? Well, becoming more intuitive, or mindful, of your eating habits can equip you with the arsenal you need to win the battle for your health. Intuitive eating is the ability to stay tuned in to your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues. Many benefits are associated with this tactic including the following:

  • Changing your mindset
  • Achieving a healthy body composition
  • Improving the ability to choose more nutritious foods
  • Learning when you should or shouldn’t eat
  • Consuming fewer empty calories
  • Avoiding overeating or undereating
  • Appreciating your food more
  • Boosting your immunity.

It seems simple to ask yourself ‘am I hungry?’ before eating, or to stop eating before any discomfort sets in, but the key to becoming more nutritionally intuitive is through the power of intentionally and repeatedly making good choices over time—this starts with a change of your mindset!  As you make positive, healthy choices every day, your new habit will have long-term positive impacts on your health. Thus, the purpose of this article is to not only provide intuitive eating strategies for your Health Trip, but to, also, equip you with effective solutions that will make you stronger than before.

Strategy #1: Using the hunger scale.

The Hunger Scale below is an effective, yet simple strategy to discover how you should and should not feel when eating intuitively. The idea is to stay within the green zone and avoid the caution and red zones when you begin and stop eating. For example, begin eating when you are mildly hungry (zone 4) and stop when you are satiated or mildly full, with no discomfort (zones 5-6). The feeling of starved or famished (zones 1-3) and eating to the point of discomfort, or feeling sick, (zones 8-10) should be avoided.  Practicing this routinely will yield a positive impact on your energy levels and lessen negative emotions, such as irritability or being “hangry”. 

Strategy #2:  Stop and think.

When learning to become more intuitive, using the stop and think rule may help. For example, try asking yourself these questions before making the decision to eat:

  • “Is this an emotional eating decision?”
  • “Am I actually hungry?”
  • “How long has it been since the last time I ate?”
  • “What are the benefits or detriments of eating this?”

If you deduce that your reason for eating is an emotional decision due to stress or boredom, try distracting yourself by going for a walk or some form of activity. Reminding yourself of your eating schedule and understanding the benefits or detriments of your food choices can help you stay on track with your health and fitness goals.

Strategy #3:  Journal your wins!

Remember, becoming more intuitive requires a change in how you think. Try keeping a handwritten journal of your wins.  A “win” would be each time you made a positive choice regarding a food selection or food avoidance. For example, you figured out your desire to eat was due to an emotional eating response, so you went for a walk instead. WIN! When you journal your wins repeatedly, it increases the likelihood of building a new habit.

Strategy #4:  Enjoy your food.

There is truth in the philosophical quotes: “food is fuel”, “food is the way to my heart”, “food is love”, “food is life”, “food is medicine”, and “food is good”.  When you enjoy something, you are more apt to adhere to it long-term. Thus, pursue new ways you can enjoy healthy, mindful eating.

  • Try finding new recipes with ingredients you love.
  • Involve the family by preparing and cooking together.
  • Go out of your norm by exploring your grocery store. Look for new foods you are willing to try.

Strategy #5:  Eat slow and savor your food. 

Not only will this allow you to enjoy your food, but the action of eating slowly will enable you to eat less.  Chewing more, having conversation while eating, and putting your fork down between bites will increase the length of time it takes to eat your meal, triggering satiety without overeating.

Strategy #6:  Avoid restrictive eating practices.

Recently, an article by U.S. News & World Report identified the best diets of 2020, and those which were restrictive (i.e., Paleo, Whole 30, and Keto) were not at the top of the list! Restricting entire food groups is not sustainable for many reasons:  It is harder to get all important nutrients, it disrupts satiety, it is harder to promote long-term weight loss (2 years or more), is less protective against diabetes or heart disease based on available evidence, and is harder to comply with (Cooper Institute 2020).  Thus, a diet plan that includes all food groups in moderation leads to a long-term healthy lifestyle. Diets such the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH Diet, or Weight Watchers are notable for success.

Strategy #7:  Have a plan of action.

True success or change is not achieved accidentally, but intentionally. It has been shown that individuals who set goals have a higher likelihood of being successful. This is because when you set a SMART goal it comes with a plan of action. Planning is a key factor in becoming more intuitive. Try these action plans to become more successful at intuitive eating:

  • Set SMART Goals. Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
    • Break your action plan down this way:
      • This year I will…
      • This month I will…
      • This week I will…
      • Today I will…
    • Set a schedule. Review your calendar or daily agenda and schedule eating times. Anything that occurs outside of this schedule should be avoided.
    • After finding recipes, add the ingredients to your grocery list. This can help save you money and walk through the grocery store with good intentions.

Strategy #8:  Reward yourself.

Positive reinforcement, or a reinforcing stimulus, has been shown to promote the behavior you are trying to achieve. Try setting up a reward system for achieving your yearly, monthly, weekly or daily goals. Here are some examples below: (rewards listed based on current social distancing guidelines)

  • Reward yourself with an affordable pampering product purchased through the internet.
  • Reward yourself with a small delectable treat.
  • Reward yourself with new nutrition or fitness gear that encourages your journey.

In summary, becoming more intuitive may seem challenging, but the long-term benefits are priceless. When you make the decision to form a new habit remember that persistence is key, and perfection is unrealistic.  Failures may happen along the way and that is ok. Learn from your mistakes and keep pursuing your goal(s)—focused attention and perseverance pays!

For more resources on healthy habits, visit Power Henrico.

For a jumpstart into intuitive eating, join the 21-Day Intuitive Eating Challenge May 1 – 21, 2020!

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Food Prepping During the Pandemic- Where to Start

Under these stay-at-home orders, getting food and feeding your family remains an essential activity.  For many people, food delivery is an attractive option.  For others, grocery shopping may be one way to experience some sense of normalcy.  Whatever you choose, here are a few tips to help you make the best use of your time and resources:

Take inventory of your pantry

You will probably find items that have been tucked away for a long time or half full containers.  Check your refrigerator and freezer for items too, and toss anything you are unsure of. This will provide adequate space for purchased items. Make a list of what you currently have, what is expiring soon, and what you are running low on. Label food items with their expiration dates so you can keep track of which items need to be eaten first.

Make a plan for your meals and list

When making a grocery list, refer to your inventory list to quickly see what you need to buy. Plan your meals based on what you have and what your family likes to eat. With fewer options available, we need to be strategic about what we put in the cart.  Consider purchasing food items for a minimum of two weeks at a time. 

When grocery shopping:

  • Use hand sanitizer when entering stores, and wash hands and/or use sanitizer as soon as possible after leaving
  • Wear a face mask while in public
  • Try to maintain social distancing as much as possible while shopping
  • Avoid touching surfaces or items unnecessarily
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose or face at all times

Keep in mind these pantry basics when shopping for dry/canned goods, refrigerator and freezer foods.  They will keep your family nourished while sheltering in place.

  • Canned foods to keep in your pantry: fruits, vegetables, tomatoes, beans, corn, fish (such as tuna and salmon)
  • Other important pantry items: nut butters, whole grain pasta, rice, quinoa, broths, oils, shelf-stable milk, dried fruit, cereals, and oatmeal
  • Refrigerator staples: eggs, cheese, juice, and milk
  • Hearty produce: pears, oranges, apples, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, squash, white potatoes, onions, garlic, and carrots, cabbage (these items keep longer)
  • Freezer staples: shrimp, edamame, veggie burgers, ground beef or turkey, tofu, fruits, vegetables (help control food waste use what you need and return package to freezer)

Having these basic meal builders on hand will help with meal planning and ensure that your family has balanced meals. Visit for low cost healthy recipes.

Food safety practices are key

CDC and USDA are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices (i.e., wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature, and refrigerate foods promptly) when handling or preparing foods.  Pay special attention to fresh fruits and vegetables. Just before use, make sure you rinse your produce under running water. There is no need to wash packaged fruits and vegetables labeled “ready-to-eat,” “washed” or “triple washed.” Do not wash produce with soap, detergent, or chlorine as these products are not intended for consumption. Additionally, proper food storage will ensure the best use of your food resources and reduce food waste.   Visit the Foodkeeper App to help you maximize the freshness and quality of items.



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Henrico County Public Library- More Than Books

While our buildings may be closed, Henrico County Public Library (HCPL) is fortunate to have an engaged community, versatile and adaptable staff, and the support of Henrico County. This has helped us to quickly move to promote existing online services and innovate new ways to connect with county residents online and over the phone. Here’s a look at what the libraries are up to during this closure.

Digital Collections

HCPL’s extensive online library of over 100,000 titles is always open.  Cardholders can borrow materials, including ebooks, audiobooks, movies, magazines and music, online from the library through OverDriveHoopla, and RB Digital. The library also offers newspapers through our  Online Research page. We recently added a post on our blog for people to learn how to get started using these services. 

Online Programming and Virtual Storytimes

Our librarians are working hard to develop engaging online learning experiences for all ages. We encourage you to follow our blogFacebookTwitter, and Instagram and sign up for our monthly newsletter to get educational content from our staff. This includes online book discussions, reading recommendations, an upcoming reading challenge, and our popular Virtual Storytimes. Tune into Facebook Live for Virtual Storytimes on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 10:30 am and Tuesdays at 6:30 pm.  Check our website and social media for updates about Title Talk, an open group to discuss what you’ve been reading and get recommendations from librarians, on Thursdays at 6pm for adults, and Tuesdays at 2pm for teens.

Digital Library Cards

New digital-only cards are available while libraries are closed due to COVID-19.  If you don’t yet have a library card, you can use the online registration form on our website to register for a digital card, which will provide access to OverDrive ebooks and audiobooks, as well as online research and learning tools like Consumer Reports,, and Rosetta Stone for language learning. If you think you might already have an HCPL library card, please check with us first using Ask A Librarian, available by clicking the green tab on the right hand side of any page on our website.

Educational Resources

We know that it can be challenging to find supplemental, structured learning activities for young people during this time.  The library can help!  Students of all ages can receive free online tutoring and homework help with, and additional study resources, like test prep, are available through Learning Express Library, free with their library card. If you have a question for a librarian or need assistance with a project, you can use our online AskHCPL service by clicking the green tab on the right hand side of any page of our website. Visit our Online Research page for other resources organized by subject – our favorites include Rosetta Stone for language learning, and Universal Class, which offers tutorials that can help you with academic subjects, or learning a new skill or craft!

Connect with Staff and Get Book Recommendations

HCPL librarians are available to assist you with your information and learning needs. Call any library during our normal business hours to speak to customer service staff, or connect with staff online using our AskHCPL service, available by clicking the green tab on the right hand side of any page of our website. Visit our locations page for phone numbers and hours. And our My Next Read service can help you get book recommendations via email directly from library staff. 

Call Center Staffing

Library staff have been providing direct assistance to those impacted by COVID-19 by working four call centers; the Henrico Employee and Community call centers, the Senior Outreach Call Center and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Call Center at Fairfield Library.  The Henrico Community Call Center (501-5655) answers calls of all kinds from the community and from schools.  Within the same call center is an employee information line (501-5623). These call center staff also answer community and employees’ texts (804) 376-9780.  Each line is open from 7am-7pm Monday through Sunday.

The Senior Outreach Call Center, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily at 501-5454, connects older residents and family members to community support and resources as part of the EngAGE initiative.  Outreach Call Center staff assist field incoming calls and make regular calls to Senior residents who are seeking reassurance and social connection, or need help getting food or medication.  Staff provide company and assurance to these residents, and have even connected some to church groups providing food or pharmacies that deliver prescription medication.  And for those with questions about their health or COVID-19, another hotline managed by the VDH/Henrico and Richmond Health Districts has also employed library staff. That line – 205-3501 – is available 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Our staff have quickly adapted to provide innovative new services, promote our existing online services, and connect online with our community.  We plan to resume full or partial library services as soon as we are able, and we can’t wait to see you at the library in the future.  For now, we hope you’ll join us online or give us a call.  Henrico County Public Library is still here for you, and committed to supporting your learning, reading, and curiosity during this difficult time.

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