You may have heard that listening to your hunger by eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full is one of the best ways to regulate portion size and to improve your relationship with food. Tuning into your hunger cues has been found to be more effective than food rules (i.e., no eating after 7 pm, or eat every 3 hours) when trying to improve your habits with eating.
Your biological responses naturally communicate how much and even what to eat.
By learning how to listen and trust what your body is telling you; you have the freedom to let go of external measurements that may or may not serve your body/mind in the way that it needs.
Becoming more mindful, intuitive and aware of your internal cues is extremely useful when trying to make a change in your eating habits, but what do you do if you have difficulty "hearing" your hunger cues or no longer feel hungry?
Many people who are following a diet rules or are restricting food in some way, tell me things like “for the first few days I was SO hungry, but then... the weirdest thing happened and all of a sudden I wasn’t hungry anymore.”
As I listen, both my curiosity and concern increase:
I believe hunger is a natural and human response for survival. When it disappears for you I find myself concerned about the possibility that due to restriction and/or your body receiving messages of a threat of starvation your biology is not communicating well and may be ‘confused’ about what your needs are.
There are many reasons for hunger to decrease, including medications, stress and becoming conditioned to ignore or suppress it by delaying eating or avoiding hunger with excess fluids, (usually out of fear of gaining weight).
Pushing hunger aside can quickly become a mindless habit. Regardless of how you emotionally feel about eliminating hunger, this is not a biologically good thing.
Willfully overriding your hunger eventually, teaches your hunger to stop showing up, and we NEED it to be present so that we can survive, thrive and feel good. If you’re having trouble reconnecting to your hunger, it could also be possible that it might be showing itself in different ways.
Hunger can be more than just a growly stomach; it can also be:
- A headache
- Foggy brain/confusion/hard time remembering things
- Mindless action (i.e. forgetting things, binging or overeating)
If you have repetitively participated in diets or don't have a kind and respectful relationship with food or your body, you may question trusting your biology (and self). The idea of hunger disappearing may sounds amazing and so much easier. Thoughts like "I don't like to eat breakfast, because then I am hungry all day." are common for many of my clients when we first start working together. They wish they didn't feel hungry, because then they wouldn't think about food all day.
You may find yourself feeling similar reading this post, and there is nothing wrong with that. I get it. I really do. We have been taught to fear food and being fat and associate both with potential pain in our lives.
I have been working with women trying to improve their relationship with food and their body for over a decade and even though everyone has slightly different roadblocks to overcome with their habits; there is one truth we cannot ignore. If you don't eat, you die.
When hunger disappears, it is NOT a good thing. Your thoughts telling you "it" would be easier are fear talking….fears taught to you through your experience with diets that you can’t trust yourself with food.
Those fears are not the truth. YOU CAN trust yourself, and your hunger!! Your body is on your side… it is trying to survive life WITH you, not against you. Your hunger is what is tells your body what it needs, when it needs it, and when it is satisfied. Hunger is not the enemy; it is your best Ally!
It is likely that the reason food and hunger have a negative association for you is because someone along your journey to improving yourself and health told you that your action or your choices were "incorrect."
It could also be possible that the fear of gaining weight has been so present in your life that you believe that you need to fear and avoid food to prevent the pain associated with your size.
If you are feeling this way, you are not alone, or wrong to feel afraid of food, gaining weight, or your choices. Size bias is real. The pain from size bias is real. It is ok if you think about food and make social decisions around food as an act to potentially protect yourself. It is a completely normal and human response to do so.
There is nothing wrong with you.
I encourage you to practice re-writing the script in your head that hunger is bad to messages that tell you that hunger and eating are good and necessary.... and since they are essential to survival, isn't it about time that you found a way to experience peace, and even joy in the process of eating? Free from guilt or fear of what the scale will say the next day.
If you are tired of fighting your hunger and food, please know that you it is 100% possible to move past your previous experiences with hunger and food and improve your trust in your body and your ability to make healthier choices consistently for yourself. You absolutely can find joy in pursuit of better health and discover peace with food.
My personal story and what I have witness it with each and every one of my clients gives me complete confidence that it can be true for you too.
ONE SIMPLE STEP:
Practice this affirmation at meal times.... "I won't worry about outcomes and I will trust that my hunger is my body communicating it's needs with me and that everything it tells me is for my well-being."
If you are looking to make some peaceful changes in your relationship with hunger, eating or your health it would be my honor to have a non-judgmental pressure free discussion about where you are now with your health, where you would like to be, and identify some gentle and alternative approaches to help you get there. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a complementary strategy session.