You probably know what it feels like to be extremely hungry (starving) and uncomfortably full (bloated), but what does it feel like to have a gentle hunger and a comfortable fullness? In today’s blog post we are going to talk about what hunger cues are, how you may have lost sight of them and how to start understanding them better in order to feel truly confident in your own food choices.
All of us are born intuitive eaters. If you think about a child or baby, they cry when they are hungry and are easily able to let us know when they are full (even if they didn’t eat all of their food). But throughout life we are exposed to external rules and tools that create disconnect with the natural intuitive eater inside of us. These tools can look like diets, food tracking apps, fitness watches, scales, etc. They tell us when, what and how much to eat and then tell us how much we need to burn off to be “healthy” and lose weight.
So what happens next is…
You start to trust these external cues more than you trust your own body. So you suppress your hunger, try to curb your cravings for food and only allow yourself to eat when the hunger is unbearable to ignore, which only disconnects your understanding of what a gentle type of hunger feels like. It becomes “natural” to feel ravenously hungry and you’re unable to catch the hunger cue that allows you to eat in a mindful way. This is why you likely feel out of control with food.
There’s this thing called interoceptive awareness…
Interoceptive awareness as described in the Merriam Webster Dictionary is “of, relating to, or being stimuli arising within the body and especially in the viscera”. With that being said, our bodies are amazing things that are able to pick up on different stimuli in the body. The same way your body is able to identify and say “hey! I need to use the restroom!” and you honor that is the same way your body can say “hey! I need some fuel!” and you should be able to honor that.
But how do you begin to pick up on those again…
I hate to be clichè, but TRUST and CONSISTENCY is going to be crucial during this time.
You have to trust that your body has your best interest at heart, but because you have suppressed this interoceptive awareness for so long you have lost trust in your body, in general. So in order to start understanding these cues, you’re going to have to listen to your body and trust that it is not going to steer you wrong.
You also have to be consistent with checking in with your body and being inquisitive to what it is telling you. Many cues can be different for each person and for different situations. The more you listen, the better you will be able to identify and understand what that feeling means.
What do they feel like?
For some, hunger can feel like an emptiness in their stomach, gurgling or growling. But for others, it can be identified by starting to think about food a little more or feeling a little fatigued (needing energy; ironic, right?) or even difficulty concentrating.
I’ll leave you with a my TOP quick tip to understand hunger cues better…
This is something my clients find SUPER helpful in the intuitive eating process and I think you will as well. My #1 tip is to start eating more consistently throughout the day. The more you show your body that it receives food when hungry, the more it will show you that it IS hungry. Normal, physiological hunger happens every 3-4 hours. AND, as a bonus, when you are about to eat – check in with yourself ! How do you feel? Were you thinking about food a bit more? Were you having difficulty concentrating at work? Were you feeling a little low energy? How does your stomach feel? Was it gurgling or growling? Was there a slight emptiness? Or did it feel a bit more ravenous or hangry? The more you pick up on how it feels to be hungry, the easier it will become to not only identify it but also, you will see that when eating at a state of subtle hunger – you are more likely to eat at a very mindful rate vs when you eat at a ravenous state of hunger.