Hunger is the body’s way of telling you it needs to be fed. For some, this is an easy sensation to identify and a welcomed experience. For others, it is difficult to determine when hunger is felt and can even be uncomfortable with the thought of feeling hungry.
When you eat when you’re “comfortably” hungry, you tend to stop when you are satisfied and pleasantly full. But if you miss the early signs of hunger, you will likely get to a place where your body is screaming at you to feed it. When you are in this place, there is a very strong urgency in eating. This sort of “primal hunger” eating will result in overeating. It feels as if there is not an “off switch” and the end of eating comes with extreme fullness, often accompanied with guilt.
How your body tells you it is hungry will be different for every person. Learning the subtle and early signs is key in the prevention of intense hunger. Below are different ways you may experience signs of hunger:
Stomach: This may be rumbling, gurgling, emptiness, or gnawing sensation. This is the most common sign of hunger, but there are people who do not experience hunger here.
Head: This can be light-headedness, foggy thinking, headache, difficulty focusing, increased thoughts about food.
Mood: This is being “hangry.” Your mood is tanking and you feel more irritable and cranky.
Throat and esophagus: This can experienced as a gnawing feeling in the back of throat or a dull ache.
Energy: You may find yourself getting sleepy and tired, maybe even apathetic towards doing anything.
Numbness: Feeling a sense of overall lethargy.
Some people tend to be very connected to their body and are introspectively aware of how their body feels and what it needs. For others, connecting to the body may feel difficult, especially if there is history of ignoring body cues for a long time whether it be from chronic dieting, not prioritizing food in the day, numbing with food emotionally or even trauma. When there is disconnect from the body, it is difficult to sense subtle cues of hunger. Learning to connect and feel the sensations of your body is an integral step in increasing body introspectiveness. Starting steps can be deep breathing for five minutes or checking in a few times a day on how you feel overall- good, bad or neutral. It’s creating the practice of stopping and checking in that will create more of a connection.
Setting up a meal schedule of eating every 3-4 hours can also help you become more aware of hunger. Set an alarm to remind yourself to eat meals and snacks by a certain time. When you lack the internal awareness, the visual reminder often helps.
Hunger is an innate cue of the body. When you connect and listen you gain more trust in your body. With this trust, you create a more intuitive relationship with food and more importantly yourself.