Intuitive eaters eat when they are hungry and stop when they feel satisfied. We all had the ability to do this as babies. Have you ever tried to take food from a baby or small child who is still hungry? It’s not pretty! Unfortunately, as we grow older, many of us lose the ability to not only recognize but - more importantly - to trust our body’s cues of hunger and fullness. The good news is that this skill can be re-learned, leading to a comfortable and healthy long-term relationship with food as well as better achievement and maintenance of weight loss.
One common struggle in the process toward becoming an intuitive eater is recognizing when the body is signaling hunger. Many people incorrectly believe that they should only respond to stomach growling. In fact, the body gives us many signals that it is time to eat…and oftentimes stomach growling is the very last cue.
The next time you are trying to determine whether or not you are hungry, look for these physical cues or signals. This is your body saying “I need more energy!”
- Headache: Note - try to drink 1 cup of water and wait 15 min in case you are in fact dehydrated. If headache persists, it is time to eat.
- Fatigue/lack of energy: A particularly good hunger cue if it has been >3-4 hours since you last ate
- Dizziness: When sitting or upon standing
- Problems concentrating on a task or focusing on a conversation
- Nausea: Often occurs when other hunger cues have been ignored and extreme hunger has set in
- Stomach growling or hunger pains: Clearly it’s
time to eat!
Many of these signals (i.e. headaches, dizziness, etc.) originate in the brain because the brain gets priority when it comes to energy supply. Plus the brain runs 95% on energy from glucose, which is mainly derived from carbohydrate intake. So it is not surprising that if hunger is ignored for too long, oftentimes cravings for high-carbohydrate foods set in. High-carbohydrate food are quick, easy source of glucose. Your brain is smarter than you think!
Some clients claim they can go for hours during the day and feel no hunger at all. Keep in mind that caffeine, stress and focusing on an important task can all affect our ability to “hear” our body signaling us. To better listen, make an effort to stop what you are doing every few hours and become aware of your body and any signals that might be present. Take a few deep breaths or go for a quick walk. You may find that you were in fact hungry all along, but simply forgot to listen.