Good morning! Happy Wednesday where I’m showing a day of eats while talking about hunger cues…If you are hungry, please eat! And if you’re confused about hunger signs and how to honor them, here’s a post about honoring your hunger.
Many of my clients come to me about arbitrary food rules they have in their head, especially about snacking.
If it’s not a certain time, they believe they can’t eat, even if they are hungry. The funny thing is, these times are times that they have subjectively chosen as their feeding times.
In these situations, I try to explain to them that the feeling of hunger is a gift. It’s a sign that our bodies are working and need fuel to continue working (more on that here). I explain that their eating times will be different from my eating times, because we are all different people.
We’ve exercised differently, we’ve consumed different amounts of fluid, we’re built differently, we’re experiencing different stressors, etc. The list goes on.
No two people will be the same, so it is futile to try to fit in the mold of eating at “normal” times. Your normal is different from my normal. Some people need to eat every two hours, others every three hours.
Some people can get by on eating every four hours. <- That is not me, and I’m okay with it.
Our Bodies Control When We Eat
I also tell them that our brains don’t control when we are hungry and need to eat – our bodies do. It takes time to understand what our body is telling or asking of us. We can become out of sync or rhythm with our bodies when we don’t listen, or constantly ignore hunger.
Imagine your gas light blinking that your fuel was low. What would happen if you ignore it too long? You’d be in trouble and stuck.
Well, it’s similar with food. We get “stuck” in that we lose those cues from our body.
If we constantly ignore our hunger signals and try to wait it out to the next meal time, chances are we will overeat at that meal because we are already out of touch with what our body was trying to tell us. This is the general gist of the hunger scale.
Or, if we ignore hunger signals, our cravings will increase. More about honoring your cravings.
Since our bodies are pretty smart, we want to listen to them. We WANT to develop that trust.
Maybe we ate breakfast a little earlier, so we’re hungrier for our snack a little earlier. Or maybe we left out some essential protein and fat in our prior meal, so we’re not satiated as long. I always keep protein snacks on hand for this reason.
The more we ignore the hunger signs, the less our bodies will consistently tell us when they need fuel. Undereating can be cumulative and take time for the body to catch up on. By that I mean, if you underate a few days ago, your hunger cues could be stronger in the following days.
The body is smart and will try to maintain equilibrium or a balance to the best of its ability. It will work to maintain your weight and keep it constant.
Eating is a Process, Not a Destination
There is a theory called the set point theory. This theory recognizes that our body will regulate itself to a predetermined, natural weight, despite attempts to change it. The body will naturally settle at where it is supposed to be through feedback control mechanisms.
In other words, no matter how hard you try to override your body’s natural happy point, your body will always return to this point.
Eating is fluid – we’re constantly learning as we go. There have been many times where I haven’t recognized or listened to my hunger cues. I have been there and thought, “I can wait another hour until lunch,” or, “I just ate my morning snack. I can’t eat again until after lunch.”
Or, on the flip side, I’ve eaten past my satiety level, and felt full for hours.
And it’s okayyyy that we are guessing and checking sometimes. There is no perfection because there is not an end goal to reach once and be done with it. It’s a constant process and practice makes perfect.
So, next time you’re beating yourself up about being hungry, realize that it could be that your body is catching up from previous underfueling. Or, maybe your body is just working harder that day, your hormones are working differently, you didn’t sleep well the night before, you’re recovering from a different workout, etc.
And sometimes there is no explanation as to why you are hungrier – you just are. Don’t feel shameful. Be happy that you have the opportunity to feed that hunger. And be happy that you have those hunger cues established in the first place.
Remember that each time you listen to those hunger cues, you are building on a foundation of trust for your body. It gets easier over time.
Favorite ice cream flavor? Cookie dough and cookies ‘n cream for me! Sometimes, a belgian chocolate will do the trick!
Cup or cone? Cone!