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Recognizing Hunger: Connecting with your Cues

Intuitive Eating

September 27, 2022

intuitive eating

We’ve all been there before: you get wrapped up with school, work, or with kids and hours have passed since you last had anything to eat. Before you know it, you’re raiding the cabinets, eating whatever food is in front of you. Carefully assessing what it is you’re in the mood for, preparing a meal or a snack, or just simply recognizing your hunger goes out the window.

When you are ravenously hungry, you may find yourself eating at a rapid pace, maybe even consuming food while standing up at the cabinet or refrigerator, eating directly out of a box, bag or container. This commonly results in overeating. When you learn to identify true hunger, eat to manage hunger levels, and honor your body when it is hungry, you’ll take in what your body needs when it needs it and avoid possible excessive and erratic intake. 

Sitting down to a meal, it’s good to feel hungry, but not to the point of being famished. One of the best ways to prevent this is to have a strong understanding of your body’s hunger and fullness cues, and then learn how to respect and honor them.

Learning How to Recognize Your Hunger

When it comes to learning how to honor your hunger and fullness, it may take time to reconnect with your body’s natural hunger signals. Years of dieting, restriction, and disordered eating can cause a disconnect with these cues where you may have lost sense of them completely. Recognizing your hunger takes practice, but leads to an intuitive relationship between you and your body to know your appetite. Here are a few steps that you can take to reconnect with your hunger.

Observe Your Hunger

 

Begin to observe how you feel after meals and snacks. Were you overly full after eating, or perhaps still hungry for more? How long did the food keep you full for? Did you feel satisfied afterwards?

Tuning into the eating experience and tuning out all extraneous distractions will help you connect to these signals your body is sending you. Staying present is key! Take your time to hone into the sensory experience of food intake. Think about these questions when considering your hunger and fullness:

  1. Has it been a while since I last ate?
  2. Do I want to eat out of habit, boredom or because I am stressed?
  3. Am I avoiding eating foods I feel that I shouldn't eat?

If you want to eat but can’t pinpoint if you’re hungry or not, give yourself a minute to take a break. This pause can help you recognize the sensation of hunger and can also help to stay mindful. 

Remember to ditch the diet principles. You can’t listen to the signals your body is sending you if you are always focusing on exact portion sizes or calorie amounts to determine what and how much you eat. Instead, practice relying on internal signals your body is sending to fuel your body. The more you practice this, the more intuitive your body will become at knowing what it needs.

Identify Satisfying Foods

 

What foods can you think of that leave you feeling satisfied? Is it salty, or sweet? Crunchy? Hot, or cold? Recognizing which foods bring you satisfaction will help you to honor what your body is truly seeking. Sometimes we think we’re still hungry when we’re really just not satisfied with our intake. Say you’re craving something salty and crunchy after lunch, for instance, but you choose to eat an orange instead of having chips. As a result, you may be left feeling unfulfilled or unsatisfied, which can then lead to increased cravings and maybe eating beyond what your body needs when you do eat again. If you find that you’re not truly satisfied with your intake, you may be missing out on the “satisfaction factor,” which is an essential piece causing this hunger that makes up the fullness equation!

Thinking you SHOULD be satisfied with your intake is different than truly being satisfied with your intake. Make sure that what you are choosing is leaving you full, satisfied and not wondering when your next meal or snack will be coming.

Incorporate Balanced Meals

 

Generally speaking, you’ll be more satisfied if your meals and snacks contain adequate amounts of carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Each of these macronutrients has its own important roles and functions in the body, so it’s necessary to eat a balance of each. While a balance of nutrients can help keep you satisfied, if it's not what your body is wanting in that moment, have something different. If you don't, you may find that your cravings will increase for that food you're not allowing yourself to have.

Carbohydrates provide the preferred source of energy for the body, allowing it to work efficiently. Having protein and fats accompany carbohydrates slows the digestion of the snack. This will keep you fuller for longer and also helps avoid any blood sugar spikes and crashes. Combining the three provides steady, reliable fuel that can keep you focused and energized. Here are a few ideas:

  • Avocado toast with a fried egg
  • Greek yogurt bowl with peanut butter and berries
  • Chili filled with ground beef, beans, veggies, and sprinkled with cheese or sour cream
  • Rice bowl with your favorite protein and veggies 
  • Turkey and cheese sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and mayo

 

Tuning in to our Hunger

Through these steps you can work toward being mindful and recognizing your hunger levels during and after meals. This helps to not only improve your connection with your appetite, but also your overall relationship with food. Mindful observation, honoring the foods that satisfy you, and planning and preparing well-balanced meals that you enjoy are key ways to get in better touch with recognizing hunger. 

Not listening to internal hunger creates a disconnect between you and your body. We need to work towards being one with your body instead of fighting against it.

Our team is here to help you navigate and explore your relationship with your body, appetite, and food to get back to feeling at ease with eating. Don’t hesitate to drop us a line for more information! 

 

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CATEGORIES

eating disorders

intuitive eating

diet talk

meal planning

movement

parent support

work with us!

tell me more!

I'm Ryann. Founder of NourishRX, mom of three and a certified eating disorders registered dietitian. To us, you're a unique individual with a story that led you to where you are today. Welcome, we are thrilled to have you here!

Hello!

take the quiz

Which NourishRX PATH is right
for you?

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