16 Feb Ever get Hangry?
One of the most common things my clients describe is feeling out of touch with their hunger and fullness signals. As I mentioned in my last blog post, we eat for a gajillion different reasons. Today, in the western world, we’re pretty lucky to be able to say that hunger isn’t always the top one. It’s actually quite low down the list.
That being said, I reckon there’s one level of hunger that a lot of us could relate to and it has now taken its rightful place in the Oxford English Dictionary:
Oh right, you know that one? Well that’s a big ol’ signal from your stomach to your brain and back again that it would like some more food now please. There are definitely cues that we can take from our bodies, how we’re feeling, our mood – loads of ways – that can help us to tune in to how hungry we are.
The ability to know how hungry we are is pretty useful. It’s a physiological signal that is hard to ignore, and for a very good reason – our body wants enough nutrients to function properly without starting to break down its own stores.
Gauging hunger can be more difficult. Some people find it useful to look at hunger and fullness on a scale from 1-10, where 1 is downright starving (say, not eaten for 5 or 6 hours +) and 10 is Christmas Day sorta-full (or whatever your equivalent feast day might be!).
Honouring your hunger can be as simple as knowing what level of hunger you need to eat at and giving yourself the chance to eat something you really fancy. Say, if you get to a 3 on your hunger scale, you might be thinking about food a lot – your stomach’s rumbling and you know it’s time to get something to eat. Or, knowing you’re going out later and won’t get chance to eat – so maybe having that sandwich when you’re at a 4 to tide you over.
If we ignore those hunger cues and let ourselves get to, say a 2, we might end up ravenous and eating everything in sight – so you know it’s best to grab something when you’re at about a 3. With time, these signals can become second nature again.
Sounds pretty easy, right? Well.. with some practice, it can be sometimes, BUT
Oh hai diet culture
Dieting and diet rules can cause us to lose sight of these signals. Think about it, when you’re hungry for a big meal at 1pm but you’ve only had the salad that your 10 Day detox plan said you could have. Even if the salad was pretty tasty, you’re actually ignoring your own intuitive eater and sticking to this prescribed, on-size-fits-all plan.
The person who wrote that plan doesn’t know you, doesn’t know that you didn’t sleep much last night or that you had to do some more work on your feet today or whatever. It’s the same if you don’t really fancy a big meal but your diet plan has said it’s time for one – you’re bypassing your own fullness signals.
If you’re looking at this using the hunger scale above – if you were feeling hungry, like a 2-3 and your plan said you could only have an apple… that’s likely to get you up to maybe a 5… but then you’ll go down again pretty quickly. If you ate something more substantial, that you fancied – maybe you’d go up to a 7 and be carried over until your next meal.
Ignoring your own body and it’s hunger and fullness signals can become ingrained and it can take a pretty long time to get back in touch with it.
That’s where intuitive eating can be helpful. Eating more intuitively can help us to get back in touch with these signals – sometimes referred to as interoceptive awareness – our own sort of internal monologue.
Again, as with all things intuitive eating, it can seem completely alien to try out these things at first. We can become so used to ignoring our own bodies, eating what and when a diet has said we can eat, not having foods that satisfy us and sometimes eating more than we wanted. Even if that food we’re over-eating is carrots or whatever, in our quest to ‘fill up’ on ‘guilt’ free foods or ‘free foods’, we can overeat and once again lose our internal fullness signals.
Diets can mess with our innate ability to know what, how much and when we want to eat. Practicing Intuitive Eating can help begin to undo some of this and get back in touch with our own bodies. It’s not easy to get back in touch with these signals, it can be pretty alien to us and so it can take some time to dial in again.
It can also be easy to turn intuitive eating into a hunger / fullness diet and focus in on weight loss. This is not what intuitive eating is about, it’s about listening to your body and learning to trust it again. Diets for weight loss ignore those cues, bypassing your hunger and fullness cues.
Intuitive eating specifically isn’t about losing weight or tweaking your diet to reduce your kcal intake, it’s is about getting back in touch with your body and shaking off all of those diet rules.
Next Week I’m going to be looking at how you can get in touch with your fullness signals and why it can be a pretty tricky skill to master. There’s also some new workshops and events to be announced soon…
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Want to consult on one with a registered dietitian and start working towards your own intuitive eating goals? Book in here for your free initial 20 minute consultation call. Not in Brighton? No worries – I offer video consultations as well – so you don’t even have to leave the house.