This is the second post of my blog series on Intuitive Eating – definitely check out this first post on ditching diet culture if you haven’t already. I highly encourage anyone reading this to also get a copy of the Intuitive Eating book and read it for yourself; these blog posts are my perspective on what I learned from the original authors and you can find so many more helpful details in the book!
Once we’ve thrown weight loss goals out the window, we can start to tune back into our bodies, and trust that they are telling us what they need. That brings us to the second principle of Intuitive Eating:
Honor Your Hunger.
Diet culture tells us that we need to be smaller, and that we therefore can’t trust ourselves to eat the right amount of food. Sometimes we end up following a set diet or meal plan, or sometimes we just set up arbitrary rules for ourselves that dictate when and how much to eat (that second one was me!). Either way, we end up relying on something outside our bodies to tell us what we need, and fighting our hunger by practicing “self-control.”
But that doesn’t make sense! We listen to other bodily signals like going to the bathroom when we feel like we have to go, drinking fluid when we’re thirsty, and reacting to pain.
So, why do we feel like we can’t trust our body’s hunger signals? Why do we ignore it and deprive ourselves of something we really need?
Hunger is normal. I repeat: Hunger. Is. Normal.
Listen to your body. It is telling you that it needs fuel. It needs food to thrive so that you can think, work, move, and generally function normally. And guess what? The more we ignore hunger, the stronger and more intense it gets. Ignoring hunger puts our brains into overdrive, causing us to fixate on food and potentially overeat or binge on quick-energy foods later when we “give-in.” This is not about self-control, this is about fulfilling a biological need.
Alright, so what are some signs of hunger?
It might not always show up as a rumbling tummy, especially if you happen to be sick or stressed, or have been ignoring your hunger for a while. It might show up as light-headedness, feeling shaky, having a tummy ache, or getting a headache. “Hangry” may be a term we’ve coined here in the US because we think it’s funny, but hanger is so real! If you often feel cranky or like you can’t think straight, you might need to eat more at meals, add in some good snacks, or eat more often throughout the day.
For me, I often feel a rumbly tummy that turns into shakiness if I wait too long to eat. Stress has a huge influence on whether I notice my hunger, so during high-stress days I often have to pay a bit more attention to when I ate last and if I’m feeling like I might be low on energy. I might also have to eat smaller, more frequent meals and snacks to give myself adequate energy to get through those stressful days.
What is a good response to hunger?
The macronutrients -carbohydrate, protein, and fat- are what give us fuel. Since hunger is your body asking for fuel, you should eat some carbs, protein and/or fat when you’re hungry! We need a good amount of carbs, protein and fat over the course of a whole day. Eating them in some combination with each other and spreading them out across different times during the day can help you fully address your overall needs and also satisfy your body in the moment when you are hungry. Seeing food as fuel in this way can take a lot of the fear out of listening to your hunger.
What kinds of foods have the different macronutrients?
I put together a quick guide with a bunch of common foods and what macros they have (not specific gram amounts, this is NOT a guide to what grams of each is right for your body). Click the link below to open it! Have fun looking through it and choosing combos that give you at least 2 macros 🙂
Some of my favorite easy combos for smaller meals and snacks are:
- whole milk or 2% milk latte + cookie or scone
- fruit + whole milk yogurt
- fruit + cheese
- nuts + chocolate + dried fruit
- hummus + veggies + crackers
- peanut butter + jelly sandwiches
- eggs + donuts
- dark chocolate + peanut butter
- tuna salad sandwiches
Guess what’s also pretty balanced in macros? Pizza. Burgers. Chik-Fil-A sandwiches. Mac ‘n cheese. Lasagna. BBQ meat with hush puppies, beans, and coleslaw.
Fiber and water are also very important for our bodies, but they do not contribute energy like the macronutrients do and therefore won’t actually satisfy hunger. They might make us feel “full” because they temporarily put volume in our stomachs, but this won’t be really addressing the need that hunger is asking for. For example, celery (basically just fiber + water) is great for texture in soup and as a vessel for ranch dressing with your buffalo wings, but won’t give you energy.
I’ll jump more into the details of fullness, cravings, and balancing it all with gentle nutrition as I continue with this blog series on Intuitive Eating. Let me know how you’ve been listening to your hunger lately!
Happy eating friends!