Stomach vs. Bloodstream

Now that I’m exercising more I’ve started to notice a difference in how I think about hunger, and this could be a helpful distinction for children learning about eating, or adults trying to change their habits.
In the past, when I was hungry, it was mostly about satisfying my stomach with something tasty. It was about filling up, not being empty, and doing so in a pleasurable manner.
Now when I’m hungry I’m thinking about my bloodstream – what nutrients do I want to add to my blood? It’s about providing energy, nutrition, and balance with what I’ve eaten (or not eaten) in recent hours.
This sounds simple, but it’s been a game-changer for me. For instance, let’s say it’s 4 PM, and I’m hungry. Not an unusual case if you have a salad for lunch. I am planning to exercise, but I don’t like going between 5 and 6 because it’s so busy then. So I’m going to work until 6. That means I’ll need to eat before I exercise. It’s a little early for dinner, so I want a snack. In the past this would have been any number of empty-calorie foods, like ice creme, chips, etc. Let’s own up to it: Even Oreos were on the list, conveniently sold in six-packs these days. Or, even, a two-pack of Pop Tarts, though that pushed the limits of my upper-middle-class self-identity and didn’t happen too often (thank goodness).
Now, I think, “What nutrients haven’t I had recently? What does my blood want?” The answer tends to be more along the lines of carrots! an orange! a banana! some grapes! turkey rollups! I have to think a little bit more, and it’s more like a discovery game to figure out the right answer, but it’s much more satisfying mentally because I know I’m being good to myself, and physically because I don’t feel like crap after I have a snack.
By changing my mental model of hunger from “stomach” to “bloodstream” I have completely changed how I think about food, snacks, and eating. This feels like a long-term change.