If I had to narrow down the definition of intuitive eating it would come down to learning to recognize your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Doesn’t that sound simple and easy? You may think so, but for anyone who has spent time dieting and following food rules, learning these cues can be a bit challenging. For example…
- You’ve learned to calculate points, and since the goal is to stay under a certain point value, you choose foods that are filling, but low calories/points. You eat what you’re allowed, often without checking in to see if you’re hungry or full.
- You’ve been led to believe that being a “little bit” hungry is good, and so have learned to ignore your body’s signals, or trick it into feeling full with water, coffee or diet beverages
- You eat according to the clock! Break at 10 and 3, lunch at noon. Time to eat right?
- You feel guilty wasting food, or have been brought up to feel like you need to finish your plate before dessert.
See what I mean? It’s not as straightforward as it should be! So first let’s talk about HUNGER.
Most people have experienced the extremes of physical hunger, but many don’t recognize the early signs of hunger, or feel confident differentiating between physical and emotional hunger.
Physical hunger is obvious when our belly feels empty and starts to growl. Hunger can also be experienced as fatigue, thinking about food or headaches if left for too long. Physical hunger is also slow to build, but consistently gets worse over time. Eventually, it becomes uncomfortable to ignore physical hunger.
Unlike physical hunger, emotional hunger comes on quickly, and is often for specific foods. It may also be tied to emotions, or from a lack of satisfaction. Feeding emotional hunger with food won’t help; it will stick around despite eating. Before you react to emotional hunger with food, ask yourself the following:
- Am I experiencing a negative emotion such as sadness, fatigue or depression?
- Am I eating to celebrate or be social?
- Do I want something because it smells or looks good?
If the answer is yes, then you may be experiencing emotional hunger, which can never be satisfied with food. As part of learning to be an intuitive eater, we explore these different hunger cues and learn to feed emotional hunger without food.
We’ll explore FULLNESS in Part 2 – next week! Want to learn more about Intuitive Eating? Join my ‘Everyday Intuitive Eating’ Facebook group, or book an appointment to see me by calling 902.444.3303.