Become an Intuitive Eater
Last night a group of women sat in my place. Together, they are on the journey to becoming intuitive eaters. We spent some time processing what they had learned over the past few months and where they would like to see more growth and healing in the months to come. One woman, who has struggled with weight and food issues for most of her life, commented: “I’m learning what true biological hunger is and how to nourish my body appropriately. I’m also learning how to discern what I really need when I desire to eat without hunger.” What she is describing is her success in applying to her life the second principle of intuitive eating: honor your hunger.
Principle Two: Honor Your Hunger.
If someone asked you to describe biological hunger, what would you say? For many, this would be an easy answer: gurgling and growling noises, feeling faint or light-headed, or perhaps a dull stomach pain. However, for others—especially for chronic dieters—identifying true biological hunger is not as simple as it seems. Many dieters will only eat when they are extremely ravenous, which leads to either feast or famine and a lack of balance. On the other hand, those who chronically overeat seldom feel the pangs of true and natural hunger. Neither one of these extremes will place you on the path to freedom. Yet, if you can learn to listen for the smallest noise or feeling that indicates hunger, and then choose to honor this signal, you will begin rebuilding trust with yourself and food.
Learning to listen for hunger takes practice, but it’s possible. Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch suggest that you ask yourself the following questions each time you eat: “Am I hungry? What’s my hunger level? When was the last time I felt hungry? How does hunger feel in my body?” It is important to check in with yourself at regular intervals, before and in between meals. Though you will not always need to be this hyperconscious, it will take a great measure of focus as you begin to reacquaint with your body and its biology.
The time to eat is as soon as you detect the signs of biological hunger. Neglecting this will only lead to over-hunger and ultimately, overeating. Use the hunger scale shown below (created by Tribole and Resch) to help you learn to identify the different levels of hunger. Typically, do not drop below a “3” or “4” on the hunger scale before you eat. If you are at “5” or above, You are not biologically hungry. At “2” or lower, you have entered the danger zone of overeating.
Finally, it is important not to equate “honor your hunger” with “thou shall only eat when hungry.” A rigid interpretation such as this will lead you straight back to the bondage of dieting mentality. Normal eaters—who easily maintain their weight— don’t only eat from pure hunger. There may be times when something just sounds good, and you choose to eat for “taste hunger.” Or practicality may be priority to biological hunger in some situations—when your schedule dictates that you eat when you are not quite hungry, because to wait until later will leave you ravenous.