This month I am adding another layer to the topic of attunement. The signal of hunger is one of the most important aspects of your body to become attuned to, especially as you are healing your relationship with your body and food. Finding this attunement is doing the “repair” with your body. This willingness is saying, “I will listen to you and what you need, rather than me telling you what to do.” This is a significant shift, one that takes the leap of faith to begin trusting your body. Sound scary? Keep reading!
Do You Trust Your Body’s Cues?
Let’s start by seeing where you sit with trusting your body’s signals of hunger and satiety. Satiety is your satiation or satisfaction of fullness after eating. These questions are taken from the Intuitive Eating Assessment Scale-2. Answer yes or no. If you waiver, go with what you experience most of the time.
- I trust my body to tell you when to eat?
- I trust my body to tell me what to eat?
- I trust my body to tell me how much to eat?
- I rely on my hunger signals to tell me when to eat.
- I rely on my fullness (satiety) signals to tell me when to stop eating.
- I trust my body to tell me when to stop eating.
How did you do? If you answered no to most of these questions, you know that there is work to be done! If you have been a chronic dieter and have always relied on plans to dictate the when, what and how much, you can see where the mistrust was supported. In fact, you probably agreed that you couldn’t trust your cues because when you fell “off” the diet or plan, you likely were in an eating frenzy. All of that goes back to the rules and restrictions that were put upon you when you were dieting.
It is important to reflect back on last month’s topic of self-care when we are looking to become attuned. Self-care is the basis of how well you will hear hunger. If you are not taking care of yourself, there can be many disruptions in how well you will hear hunger. Last month we talked about the importance of physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, and boundaries with self-care. When there is hunger in any of these, you can be using food to mask and quench it. This is emotional eating.
Remember that responding to hunger IS an act of self-care. Not letting yourself get to a ravenous place of hunger is self-care. No longer seeing hunger as “doing it right” is an act of self-care. Being able to discern what is physical versus emotional hunger is self-care.
Shifting this attention to your body and being curious about how you are listening or not listening to your body is such an integral step and will change the relationship with your body. You soon see that it is a needed step in healing the partnership with your body. You are telling your body, “I want to get to know you better. I want to listen to you and partner with you versus fight with you.” This step of listening, even the beginning of the willingness to listen, is an extension of compassion towards your body. The willingness and shift to be curious to hear your body is an apology for all the ignoring you may have done in the past. You are becoming an ally versus the enemy against your body.
Where Do You Hear the Hunger Signals?
As I discussed in “More Than a Rumble.” The most common experience of hunger is in the stomach. Most people will say they feel their stomach growling or that it will feel empty. But your body can give you other sensations and cues that it needs food that you might be dismissing.
The biggest one I see is the 3 pm coffee run. When I am taking a “typical day” inventory of what someone eats, and this pops up, it’s a clear indicator that my client does not recognize other sensations of hunger, or at the very least, this one. It is not uncommon to link tiredness with caffeine, but besides too much caffeine not being good on your heart and central nervous system, it also blunts hunger cues.
Tiredness or fatigue is a symptom of hunger. It’s a sign that your blood sugars are starting to dip too low. The later afternoon time is a very common time that most people experience. If you ignore this cue, it is why you are ravenously hungry at dinner or feel like you are overeating at dinner or snacking so much while you’re cooking and end up not hungry when you sit down to eat your meal. You needed a snack three hours ago but didn’t recognize it.
You can experience hunger in your head, such as lightheadedness, headache, or difficulty focusing or concentrating. You might find that your thoughts are heavily consumed with food. The physical tending to your hunger is important, especially with getting these symptoms. If you know you are nourished and fed and still have consuming thoughts with food, we can lean towards it being more emotional or has to do with permission issues with food. But if you are not feeding yourself and going too long without eating, it’s a double whammy. So, it is important to rule out what is physical and what is emotional. This allows you to have more of a clear view of what you need to work on. Emotional eaters tend to miss these cues of hunger. So, figuring out logistics with eating is always the first step—more on that below.
Have you ever felt hangry? I know this is a clear symptom for me! You might recognize the point where it is obvious that you are so hungry that you are angry, but part of the learning is finding the nudges of it. Can you start to recognize when you are getting more irritable or cranky or shorter with patience? When you become aware of that, check in with how long it has been since you last ate. That can be a clear sign that you need to eat.
How to Start Your Hunger Awareness
It is okay if you need some structure when you start becoming more attuned to your hunger cues. If you have been a dieter, you need this structure because you haven’t been relying on them, and you know how to ignore the subtleties of hunger well. Setting up an eating schedule of every 3-4 hours is a helpful framework to help guide you. Metabolically it only takes around 3-4 hours to metabolize and digest food, so this helps you stay on top of that rhythm. Set alarms on your phone for the times that may be difficult to remember, such as that 3-4 pm time.
Just stay open to the feedback that your body gives you. It wants to support you, not fight you. You just have to be willing to do the same!