I talk about hunger a fair amount. Certainly more than the average person since I happen to be a nutrition therapist for a living. And perhaps more than other dietitians because I use an intuitive eating approach to my work. That means I work with my clients to help them connect to the process of eating when hungry, stopping when full, and learning to manage their emotions without using food. Perhaps it sounds simple but it can be a surprisingly complex process!
There are many things in life that can derail us from eating in response to a physical cue for hunger: not being able to identify hunger, eating based on the time of day, habits, chaotic schedules, emotions and even dieting. I'm sure you could add to the list.
In an ideal world, we'd eat in response to a hunger cue the majority of the time. Note: Not 100 percent of the time — sometimes we eat for fun and social reasons. But hopefully most of our eating is done because our bodies and brains need more fuel.
So my purpose in writing this blog post is to help you become more aware of your personal cues of hunger. Believe it or not, your hunger cues are just as individual as you are! And learning your own personal cues for hunger is the first step to eating intuitively.
So, here is your homework assignment. Get out a sheet of paper and write the following:
Now, I want you to write down as many PHYSICAL descriptors as you can for each category. I'll give you some examples.
Starving: stomach pain, headache, terrible mood, no energy
Over-hungry: growling/empty stomach, shaky, can't think of anything but eating
Meal hungry: grumbly stomach, lack of concentration, low energy, mouth watering at the thought of food
Snack hungry: distracted thinking, energy dip, little grumbles in stomach
Ok, the next step is to keep this paper around for a week or so. Throughout the week, pay attention to moments that you think you might be in one of these categories and ask yourself the following questions:
1. Am I hungry?
2. How hungry am I?
3. How do I know? This "how do I know" part is your cue to write down any physical descriptor you have that fits your particular level of hunger.
The last step is extremely important because you are creating an individualized list of how your body speaks to you. Try to pay attention for a week or so and see what data you gather. You might notice that you need to make changes to your list of physical descriptors as you go along.
What are your greatest obstacles to eating in response to hunger? I'd love to hear your feedback!