It’s time for Intuitive Eating principle #2:
Honor your hunger
Simply stated, this means eating when you’re hungry, every time. But how come that can be so complicated? Are there times you’ve felt hunger but didn’t eat?
Hunger is a normal, biological process. Hunger cues are a biological signal that we cannot ignore. Trying to override these feelings or honor them unsatisfactorily will ultimately lead to overeating, strong cravings, and being unable to trust your body. Dieting leaves you feeling deprived and hungry, and your ability to perceive moderate portion sizes and to truly be conscious of what you’re eating dissolves when you reach the point of extreme hungry. Learning to honor your hunger will allow you to establish self-trust.
However, so many of us have dishonored our bodies’ cues and implemented external food rules that have caused us to lose touch with what hunger really feels like. Society tries to convince us that we need to control our hunger and is always promoting a new way to “overcome” it. Hunger is not a matter of willpower, it’s pure biology. If you’re hungry, you just need to eat.
To honor your hunger and your body, here’s a few things you can do:
1. Recognize YOUR hunger cues.
These may not be the same from one person to the next, but it’s important that you are able to realize when you’re hungry so that you can honor it. There is no right or wrong way to feel hungry. Some signs of hunger might include:
dizziness or light headedness
lack of concentration
emptiness in your stomach
an upset stomach
lack of energy
a preoccupation with food
2. Forget the clock.
No matter what time of day it is or how long it’s been since you last ate… if you’re hungry, eat. A meal plan or eating schedule doesn’t know what your body needs when it needs it; you’re the expert. (Although if you’ve lost touch with your hunger, you may need to eat at regulated intervals while you try to normalize your hunger and fullness cues again)
3. Eat what you WANT.
Give yourself permission to eat exactly what your body wants in that moment. By doing this, you build body trust and are able to move on with the day, putting your focus on the things it should be on. By teaching yourself that you can eat what you want, when you want, you’ll repair your relationship with food and rebuild trust with your body.
4. Be prepared.
Meal plans that try to dictate what and when you eat are not helpful, but especially if you’re somebody with a busy schedule, having meals or snacks ready to grab-and-go is important. It’s smart to have something on hand at all times, even if it’s just little energy bites (like these!). You can make some big-batch meals and store them in the freezer for when you need a quick dinner. This eliminates the excuse of “not having food” from being a reason to not eat. Keeping FUN foods in your house is important too, because they are not off limits, and sometimes you’re going to crave ice cream, potato chips, or a chocolate chip cookie. That’s normal. That’s allowed. That’s okay. If that’s what you want, eat it.
…of honoring your hunger stands on being able to trust your body and your body being able to trust you. Constant denial of hunger cues regularly tells your body to store the food you eat for the next time you’re hungry or deprived, rather than using it as fuel like our bodies are supposed to. The best way to “rev up your metabolism”, like the media is always talking about, is really just to eat: consistently, adequately, and satisfactorily. This is how your body will find its natural, healthy size, too.
Focus on YOUR internal cues and not on anything that is trying to externally dictate your food or eating. Your hunger is unique to you, and it won’t be the same from day to day. If you’ve completely lost touch with what your hunger feels like, begin eating on a consistent schedule: you could try 3 meals and 2 snacks everyday, each about 3 hours apart. You want to try and eat balanced meals with a variety of foods and without long periods of time between meals.
Learning to honor your hunger is another part of the intuitive eating journey. Like I’ve said, this is not an easy journey. The freedom, joy, and acceptance that it brings, though, is more than worth it. Stay tuned for principle #3!