burger beside potato fries fighting off hunger
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How to Trust You Can Honor Your Hunger

If you’re someone who has been on and off diets your entire life, it may be very difficult to trust your body’s hunger cues.

Intuitive Eating has 10 guidelines and honoring your hunger is an important one of them. It sounds easy for some people but, for others, it can be quite challenging if you don’t trust yourself.

If you’ve followed many diets, you might recognize you’ve eaten when you weren’t hungry (and sometimes that is perfectly okay)! Or you eat the food you didn’t want because the food you truly wanted wasn’t ‘healthy’ enough. This usually leads to overeating because you are left unsatisfied.

Shame and guilt showed up and told you not to eat what you wanted. Both of these feelings contribute to you not trusting yourself. It’s important to end the cycle of restriction and overeating and build the confidence to know what your body needs.

Let’s look at how important it is to listen to your body and give it the nourishment it desires without shame and guilt. Honoring your hunger builds trust and is necessary for healing your relationship with food.

Defining Hunger

Person Eating Vegetable Dish due to hunger.

Hunger is your body’s way of letting you know your body needs nourishment. It is defined as an uncomfortable or painful physical sensation caused by insufficient dietary energy consumption.

If you ignore the cues, your hunger increases and sets off a cascade of events often leading to overeating. Sometimes this can’t be helped. For example, if you get called into a meeting just before lunch that goes on for longer than expected, a feeling of hunger will ultimately arise.

You grow irritable and impatient in the meeting because all you can think about is eating. You recognize that you are now feeling hangry – bad-tempered and irritable.

Once you leave the meeting, you can’t even think about eating the salad you brought from home. You head to the cafeteria and order a cheeseburger and fries. You eat so quickly that you are surprised when you look down and the french fries are all gone. You hardly remember eating them. This is an example of emotional eating.

Taking time after the meeting to recognize how hungry you are is important. Sitting down and enjoying the salad (hopefully with lots of protein) and a beverage is a way to honor your hunger.

If you are still hungry after the salad, it’s important to recognize this. You may need to nourish your body without judgment with additional food.

Listening and Honoring Your Hunger Cues

A Person Touching Her Belly to honor her hunger cues.

What does it feel like to you to be hungry? Does your stomach growl? Do you wait until you feel lightheaded and cranky to eat? Slow down and tune in to how you are feeling.

Four Types of Hunger in Intuitive Eating

  1. Physical: This hunger can present as an empty or growling sensation in the stomach. You may also develop a headache, fatigue, increased thoughts of food, or a feeling of nausea. You can compare this to when your bladder is full and you know it’s time to find a restroom or your mouth is dry and it’s time to hydrate.
  2. Taste: This is when you are craving a particular food just because it sounds good. It’s perfectly fine to eat when you’re not hungry, especially when something looks delicious. Enjoy this food without guilt; you will probably find that a few bites can satisfy this hunger.
  3. Practical: This is a hunger you anticipate having but know you can’t eat because you will be unable to. If you know you are going into a long work meeting during lunchtime, it may be a good idea to have a light meal to hold you over before the meeting. This is good planning!
  4. Emotional: If you have unmet emotional needs, you may have a desire to eat certain foods to fill this void. Perhaps you are looking to distract, numb feelings, or comfort yourself. Many of you may relate to this. It’s perfectly okay to do this at times, but you should also find other ways to meet your non-physical hunger needs. A bath, a walk, chatting with a friend, a nap, and journaling are some good ideas that many women admit work to deal with emotions.

These are all valid types of hunger. If you have been disconnected from your body and are new to intuitive eating, it will take time to get in touch with how you are truly feeling.

The first step is to pay attention to which hunger need you are fulfilling. Ask yourself, “Did I eat less than an hour ago?” See if there are other ways you can meet your needs without feelings of stress and guilt.

Ignoring Your Hunger Cues

Just as you need to recognize when your bladder is full or you feel a change in your physical symptoms due to a change in your emotions, it’s important to realize when you are hungry.

Having a higher amount of interoceptive awareness is a large part of successfully eating intuitively. This essentially means perceiving the physical sensations that arise from within your body, namely the cues of hunger and satiety — being full.

If you have been avoiding your hunger cues (hoping they go away?), the signs of being hungry can be unclear to you over time. Again, you are telling your body you don’t trust it.

Start by connecting to your body and becoming aware of where you feel emotions that come up. Where do you feel it in your body when you are sad, lonely, overwhelmed, or tired? Just identify the feeling and where it settles in your body. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ sensation or way to do this.

If you feel you need more help when it comes to slowing down and trusting your body, check out my free resources page where you can download the intuitive eating guidelines and the self-care guide.

This will help you tap into what you truly need if you feel you’ve felt disconnected from what your body is trying to tell you.

How to Trust Yourself and Honor Your Hunger

woman in black jacket standing on road during daytime honoring their hunger cues.

Practice, practice, practice! If you have been ignoring your hunger cues, it’s time to let that go.

Move away from diet culture. You deserve to trust how you feel… but it will take time. You need to show your body that you are tuning in, showing up, and truly nourishing it (even if it’s to enjoy a delicious warm brownie without guilt)!

Learning to nourish your body is as essential to life as breathing in air. Slow down and tune in to how you are feeling. Ask yourself when the last time you ate was. Are you enjoying your food choices? How do you feel after you eat? Nourished, energized, or tired? Adjust your food choices as you recognize the foods that help you to feel your best. Without shame, make sure you are taking care of your emotions in ways other than eating.

Check out my blog post ‘How to Start Eating Intuitively‘ for more helpful information.

Do you listen to your hunger cues and nourish yourself when you need to? Or are you someone who has ignored your hunger because you don’t trust yourself? I’d love to hear from you!

Please reach out to me and see how I can help you learn more about how to thrive and not just survive in midlife as you make peace with food.

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