If we don’t tune into our body and feed it when it's hungry, it can lead to overeating and binging, especially when we have left it too long between our meals and snacks. Once we start honouring our hunger, our body begins to trust us, and we can start building a healthy relationship with ourselves.
There are many ways that we may have ignored our hunger signals in the past. This can be through dieting, when we are busy at work, or when waiting for a set time to eat, say 12, when we are hungry at 11. However, the hunger will catch us up. Have you ever found yourself starving when you get home after a busy day at work, and find yourself emptying the cupboards or fridge? This is because our primal biological drive to eat will kick in when we don’t honour our hunger, and our body will need food fast. This then leads to mindless eating, overeating and binging. When we start to listen to the first signs of hunger, and feed our body before we get too hungry, we will be able to eat in attunement with our physical needs.
It can be challenging honouring our hunger, especially if we have been suppressing hunger signals for a long time. It will take time and practice. Using the hunger scale below is a great tool to get started.
0 – So hungry, you need food fast and right now no matter what it is.
1 - So hungry you feel sick or weak.
2 - Pretty hungry, finding it hard to concentrate.
3 – Hungry, but still in control.
4 - Starting to think about food.
5 - Neutral, not hungry or full.
6 - Could eat more but not physically hungry.
7 – Full and satisfied. Don’t need anymore food.
8 – Slightly uncomfortable fullness.
9 – Overfull, need to unbutton clothes and lay down
10 – So full. Stomach hurts, feel sick and can’t move.
Aiming to eat between a 3 and 4 is the ideal time to honour our hunger.
Step 1-Identify hunger.
Tune in and listen to your body. What does hungry feel like for you? Does your stomach feel physically empty? Are you tired? Cranky? Do you get a headache? We are all unique in how we feel hunger. Some of us get a clear signal in our stomach, where some of us might feel it in throat. Ideally, you need to eat, or start preparing food before you get to the too hungry stage (0-2 on hunger scale). I start thinking about food and I get a slight empty feeling in my stomach- this is my 3-4 on the hunger scale. That is my cue to prepare my meal or snack. It may take time to identify your hunger, so be compassionate, especially if you have been suppressing hunger signals for a while. When our body is hungry it will be giving us a signal to fulfill that need. By paying more attention to how you feel in between meals and snacks, and tuning in and listening to your body, you will get there.
Step 2- Be prepared.
Be prepared for hunger. Prioritise time each week to go food shopping, do some meal prep, and pack snacks with you whenever you leave the house. This means whenever hunger strikes, it won’t take too long to prepare a meal, or if you are out and about, you will have food to hand to eat that can tide you over until your next meal. Keep food as a backup in various places, such as your handbag, glove box in the car, or in a desk drawer at work.
Step 3- Be practical.
If you are stressed, sick, over busy or running from meeting to meeting, your hunger signals may be reduced. Hunger signals can also be suppressed after exercise. It is important to still fuel your body during these times, as your body still needs food even though you may not feel like it. You will only find that you will be over hungry later on, if you don’t fulfill this need. Eating practically and fuelling your body is a key part of honouring your hunger.
If you are still finding honouring you hunger challenging, and you are over hungry too often, try eating every 3-4 hours. Once your body gets used to food at consistent times, your hunger signals will become more regulated again.
If you would like some extra support with this step, you can work with me one on one here.