Three Ways to Regain Hunger Cues

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Struggle with knowing when you are actually hungry? Don’t worry – you are not alone! Read below to learn three simple ways to regain your hunger cues, know when you are actually hungry and build trust with your body.

Not knowing what your hunger feels like is normal. Whether you grew up skipping snacks because your parents said they were bad or have been taught to eat by the clock at “normal” times like dinner at 6:00 pm, you are not alone.

Eating by rules like “don’t snack” or “eat dinner at 6:00 pm” decreases your ability to know when you are hungry. And the more you rely on these rules, the more you will be pulled away from knowing when you are actually hungry.

Women who reach out to me often feel lost when it comes to understanding their hunger. They don’t know what their hunger feels like until it becomes so extreme that they are starving! Consequently when this happens, they then overeat the second they find food. And then they feel guilty and shameful for overeating so much.

My top tip to avoid overeating is to not let your hunger get too extreme. But how can you do that if you don’t know what comfortable hunger feels like?

The fact of the matter is this: we were all born as intuitive eaters, meaning that we were born with the innate ability to know when we are hungry! That’s why babies will often cry when they are hungry – they know they need food! So this means it’s possible to relearn when you are hungry and get back in touch with your intuitive eater that you were born with.

And today I’m sharing with you three ways you can do this and regain your hunger cues!

Step 1: Ditch the food rules

Food rules are often created from past diets and what we’ve learned in the media. For example, intermittent fasting might ask you to eat between the hours of 10:00 am and 6:00 pm. So what happens if you are hungry at 9:00 am or 7:00 pm? Intermittent fasting would tell you to not eat, which teaches you to not listen to your body’s hunger.

Let’s use portion control as another example here. With portion control, you are told to eat a specific amount of food each day. Rather than relying on your hunger to tell you how much you need to eat, you rely on how much the portion control containers tell you to eat.

The more you eat based on food rules, the harder it will be to know when you are hungry. Overtime, you may lose touch with your hunger cues and not know what it feels like to be physically hungry.

Furthermore, the 72 billion dollar diet industry thrives on us NOT knowing when we are hungry. Then they try to sell us “solutions” like portion fix containers to tell us how much to eat. And this decreases body trust and the ability to know what your hunger feels like.

But fear not! Now that you know the diet industry feeds off your insecurities like not knowing when you are hungry, you can reject dieting all together. And when you reject dieting, it will be easier to relearn what your hunger feels like. 

Step 2: Eat consistently 

One of my past clients, Elizabeth, felt so out of touch with her hunger cues before working with me. She didn’t know what her hunger felt like until she was starving. And when her hunger got this extreme, it triggered her to binge eat (which happened almost every night).

When we looked at her eating habits during the day, we found that she wasn’t eating enough at breakfast and lunch. Part of my proven framework as a private practice dietitian involves eating consistently, so my client Elizabeth started to do this. As a result, she was able to get back in touch with her hunger after several weeks into my coaching program.

On top of regaining her hunger cues, she also stopped binge eating at night! A win-win for her. You can read more about Elizabeth’s food freedom journey here. 

Step 3: Familiarize yourself with what hunger feels like 

How can you know when you’re hungry if you don’t know what hunger feels like?

Most women expect their stomach to tell them when they are hungry. And while this is true, your stomach rumbling is not the only place to feel hunger! Here are other ways your body may tell you when it’s hungry:

1. Your head

You might find it hard to focus on tasks at hand when you are hungry. For example, if you are doing a research project at work, you may find it difficult to focus on. You may also start thinking about food and eating more! This is completely normal and a great sign to tell you that you are hungry.

2. Your mood

Can you relate to the term hangry? When you get hungry, it can make you irritable. You might find it harder to not lash out at others when you’re hangry!

3. Your energy

Low energy can be a sign that you are hungry. Signals here could look like feelings of tiredness, difficulty concentrating and weakness.

Practice checking in with your hunger a few times each day to get back in touch with it. Remember, everyone experiences hunger differently and there is no right or wrong way to feel it! The most important thing you can do is learn what your own unique hunger feels like so you can honor it and build trust with your body.

I hope you found these tips helpful, diet culture rebel. Comment on the blog with the first step you will take to regain your hunger cues!

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  1. Lindsey Breckenridge says:

    Scared at not following “the rules”, I’m an intuitive eating baby! I am scared that I won’t be “successful”, that i will gain weight and or go back to my restrictive/overindulgence ways!
    One day at a time…

  2. Michelle Davidson says:

    Thank you for these cues, I am one that struggles knowing when I am hungry outside of starving/binging too, or mindlessly snacking before dinner and then eating anyway because it is dinner time.
    I am trying to get back in touch with my body and my own cues for eating. I do notice when I am brain foggy and sleepy or irritable, I don’t know why I did not attribute that to hunger!

    You just blew my mind and made my IE journey easier. Thank you!!!

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