Tara’s Guide to Intuitive Eating – Hunger Signals

Hello lovely readers of my blog!

You’ve heard me mention intuitive eating a time or two, and it’s something that I’m very passionate about and that I really want to delve into deeper with my clients. This is something that I would eventually like all my nutrition clients to transition into from their meal plans; and something I just get really excited about whenever it gets brought up!

What is intuitive eating? 
-It is eating as if diets and rules and expectations of “good” and “bad” food never existed. It’s listening to your body first and foremost- feeding it what its craving when it’s hungry, and stopping when you are full and satisfied, not stuffed. It’s paying attention to how those foods make your body feel; and most importantly there is no guilt around what you are choosing to eat. I like to think of it how small children eat! They eat when they are hungry, they don’t eat what they don’t like, they don’t polish off their plates if they are full and satisfied, and they enjoy and love the food they do eat. They don’t eat a pint of ice-cream when they are feeling emotional or ignore hunger signals to lose weight.

The dieting industry has just really confused everyone’s idea of right and wrong. Do you eat specifically because of external cues such as “it’s lunch time”, “this food was given to me”, “this is what I should eat”. Or do you also not eat certain things because of certain rules? “I can’t eat a sandwich for breakfast, I can’t eat my lunch at 10:30am, even though I’m hungry; I can’t enjoy some ice-cream I am on a diet”.
Think right now about the food rules you revolve your life around. Do you avoid keeping certain foods in the house because you’ll eat it all? Do you restrict certain foods in your day? Do you force yourself to eat things you don’t enjoy?

What if you took EVERY RULE OUT OF THE BOOK. There are no rules. Suddenly you can eat absolutely anything you want. Chocolate cake for breakfast? Yup. Breakfast for dinner? Bread? Pasta? Delicious foods? Eating out? How often to you order exactly what you want on the menu!?

You are probably thinking right now “Well, that sounds wonderful but also like I’m going to gain about 50lbs”. But here is the deal- you WON’T because you’ll be listening to your hunger and fullness cues. This is the hardest part, but when you learn it you’ll have absolute freedom around food for the rest of your life. Doesn’t that sound amazing? When you are actually paying attention to your body and when it’s hungry and what it needs- guess what- it’s not going to want chocolate cake for breakfast very often because you’re going to have a major sugar crash after and not feel very great for the rest of the day. Sometimes your body wants green smoothies and salads and sometimes it wants a burger and fries and that’s BALANCE!

So how can you get started on your intuitive eating journey? First thing is to actually realize when you are hungry and when you are full. A lot of us who have been on diets or developed eating disorders have absolutely no idea what hunger even feels like any more. It’s different for everyone! Some people will get a rumbling stomach, I know mine rarely grumbles but mostly I feel light headed and know exactly what I want to eat and have that empty feeling in my stomach. (And I get very, very grumpy). What does hunger feel like to you?
It’s also important to realize that there are different levels of hungry and its important to feed and nourish your body before you reach the “OH MY GOD I NEED TO EAT THE ENTIRE CONTENTS OF THIS FRIDGE I AM SO HUNGRY”.

Try using this scale and identifying when you are a 3-4 on the hunger scale, this is prime time to eat. 
1 Completely empty
2 Ravenous
3 Set Hunger
4 Pangs, I need to eat soon
5 Neutral- Not hungry nor full
6 Satisfied
7 Satisfied but it tastes so good…
8 Full
9 Stuffed
10 Sick to your stomach

When you reach that hunger level I want you to think to yourself “What do I feel like eating right now if I could have absolutely anything?” Try eating it!

I’m going to do a series of blog posts on this subject; and then next one will be eating until you are satisfied, how to determine when that is, and the “last bite” rule. I’m also going to touch on how when you allow yourself all foods- initially you are going to want to eat all those foods you haven’t been letting yourself eat for so long. It’s important to allow yourself to do this. Once you realize you can eat this food whenever you want, the emotional pull is gone and you don’t feel the need to over eat on it. This may take time and practice!

I know it can be very inconvenient at first to only eat when you are truly hungry; perhaps you can only eat during scheduled break times at work, or you know you are going to have a crazy day and you need a big breakfast although you are not hungry at this moment. That’s fine! Intuitive eating is not rigid and inflexible. It’a all about learning that balance and what makes your body feel good. If you can practice eating only when you are hungry, its a great way to learn to hear those hunger signals, but normal eaters also plan ahead and ensure they are not going to be starving, and also sometimes like to eat meals out with friends or share an appetizer even though they aren’t craving it. You can totally do this and eat until satisfied, and then wait till you are hungry before eating again! Don’t eat just because it’s a certain time of day or because everyone else is. Learn to tune into your body!

What are your thoughts on intuitive eating? Are you a natural who has always been this way? I have a few people in my life who are natural intuitive eaters and have always enjoyed what they love and maintain a perfectly healthy body weight and image. It’s my goal in life to reach this stage and I am definitely getting closer everyday!


2 thoughts on “Tara’s Guide to Intuitive Eating – Hunger Signals

    • I just saw this now!! you should check out my facebook page (Training by Tara Brunet) I am going to be posting a lot of videos on this topic! I am about to write another blog post right now 🙂


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