Welcome back to the 10-week intuitive eating series. This is the second video of the series. Dani has also done a talk on why intuitive eating feels hard, which we highly recommend. So, if you are following along weekly you will be in the second week of these talks.
This week Dani is going to be chatting about honoring your hunger.
The first video was all about rejecting the diet mentality and had set the foundation for the next 9 weeks. So if you didn’t get to watch that video we have provided the link here, Intuitive Eating | Rejecting the Diet Mentality.
We highly recommend that you review this before continuing with our next video.
Intuitive Eating Video – Week 2
So what is hunger? It is defined as a natural biological cue that lets your body know when it needs sustenance. Hunger lets your body know that we need some nourishment, we need some energy, we need some fuel. Keeping your body biologically fed with carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats are what help to keep our bodies nourished. This is essential to our life as is breathing.
When we do not honor our biological signs of hunger we can trigger a primal drive to overeat. So when you get to that place of excessive hunger all of our intentions of moderate conscious eating are a lot less likely to happen. Learning to honor early signs of biological hunger are really an important piece of learning to rebuild trust with your body and your food and ultimately with yourself.
When you think of biological hunger, think of it as a sensation that starts in your body and then travels up to the brain. It’s the same as experiencing a sensation of something that’s hot. You touch something that’s hot, there’s a sensation in the body, that information travels to the brain, the brain says hey, move your hand. It is the same with biological hunger. You start with a sensation somewhere in the body and then that will travel up to the brain and tell the brain hey we need some food. Then the brain will signal you to get to eat something.
On the flip side is more of an emotional hunger. Emotional hunger usually starts in the brain and then travels down to the body. It starts with a thought whether that bought is conscious or unconscious. For example pretend you just ate a nice big lunch and you are fueled and satisfied. Then you walk into your favorite bakery and you see a delicious brownie and you think to yourself, now that looks so good. All of a sudden you feel like you can eat a little something. That would be an example of feeling hunger in your body that’s really being triggered by a thought in your mind.
Part of the practice of getting in touch of your hunger is going to be learning to decipher between a sensation of hunger in the body and a thought of hunger that starts in the mind.
This is a practice that does require a lot of self-awareness. It will require us to take the time to notice what a sensation of hunger feels like in our body. Ask yourself, is that something that I’m clear about right now. Or is that something that you start practicing and noticing. Do you feel hunger in your stomach. Does it feel empty or maybe it’s a little bit rumbly. Some people feel hunger in their throat. They say it can feel like a little bit of a gnawing feeling or an aching feeling. Other people notice it in like their brains. You get a little foggy or you feel like you can’t really focus or concentrate. What is your mood like. What is your energy level like. These are all places you can start to notice and try to pick up the subtle cues of early signs of biological hunger.
In the Intuitive Eating Book they actually suggest learning to tune in to all different types of sensations in the body. So when you’re stressed what exactly does that feel like in your body. Where is that stress in your body. If you’re sleepy, what does that feel like in your body. Can you describe it. Where in your body do you actually feel sleepy and what does it feel like. If you have to go to the restroom, what’s the sensation that you’re experiencing. So we’re learning to tap into all these different types of sensations, not just hunger. It’s like a cross-training as you practice to become more in tune with the body and it’s sensations. This is a practice that you cannot do right or wrong. It’s just all information that we’re learning to be in better communication with.
You also want to be aware of things that can interfere with your natural hunger cues. Things like thoughts, beliefs, distractions and or a lack of self-care. For example if you’re in between meals and you’re feeling biologically hungry but you have a rule that you’re not allowed to snack in between meals, you’re going to interfere with your relationship to your biological hunger. This is something that dieters like to do because we’re very accustomed to going to our mind for the information. This practice of tuning into our body is not information that we get from our mind. This is something that we get by listening to our bodies, kind of like a dropping into it. So not only do we want to get good and keep practicing recognizing the sensations in our body, we also want to start to really notice when we are having thoughts or ideas or beliefs that are interrupting our ability to honor those natural cues.
Self-care is another really important piece to this puzzle. What we do for pleasure, play and relaxation, all of these things are going to affect our ability to tune into our body and get in touch with those hunger cues and those subtle sensations in the body. Are you meeting your basic needs and do you know how to manage stress in your life. These are all really important pieces to the puzzle. It can be very difficult to hear your body’s hunger cues if you are living a very stressful, chaotic and demanding life. So whether you are chasing deadlines or running after toddlers this can set off your body’s fight or flight response. What will happen is your body will shut off blood flow to the digestive system and start shunting that out to your extremities and this will absolutely reduce the sensation of hunger cues in the body.
So adequate self-care really is a critical piece to setting the foundation of intuitive eating. Making sure that you are attending to your basic physical and emotional needs is something that should be a priority. I know for a lot of people, especially for women we think that keeping ourselves at the top of the list is somehow selfish but I promise you good high-quality self-care is not selfish. It’s actually a complete necessity for you to put yourself first. By doing this you can show up in the world and give the best of what you have. If there’s any part of your brain that argues with you and thinks this is selfish I’d love for you to take some time and really work on redefining that for yourself.
In the Intuitive Eating Workbook they have a really interesting self-care assessment in the book which I found to be both eye opening and kind of fun to do. I do recommend checking that out if you have the book.
As you get to know your hunger a little better not only are you going to get good at recognizing when you have the biological signs of hunger you will also get good at recognizing when you’ve had enough.
So how much food do you need to feel satiated, fueled and energized? There is a tool in the Intuitive Eating Workbook and in the regular book called the hunger scale.
A lot of health, wellness and weight loss coaches use this in their private practices. The one I like to use has a zero right in the middle that represents completely neutral, not hungry, not full and then that scale moves up to a positive five and down to a negative five. As you move up the scale you first start to recognize subtle signs of hunger. Then you get a good appetite and you start really looking forward to a meal. Then all the way up to being painfully and uncomfortably hungry. Then it does the same on the reverse as you move down the scale.
It’s a really great tool to use as you’re practicing this because it’s just another way to bring your awareness and your mindfulness to the practice of tuning in to your body. If you have the intuitive eating book or workbook they have their version of the hunger scale in there, so make sure you check that out.
What I really want you guys to remember is that our appetites are our friends. Being hungry and eating food is all designed to be an extremely enjoyable and pleasurable experience. When you think about having an emerging hunger coming on, where your appetite is building and then you’re looking forward to your meal. Then you sit down and you eat a delicious meal to the point of being energized and satisfied. That whole experience is a lovely experience and I really want you to reconnect with the idea that like appetite and hunger and food and fuel these are all positive things.
A lot of times in the dieting world we want to diminish all of that. We want to diminish our appetites. We want to diminish our hunger feeling. We want to make food the enemy and that is just not the case. We want a ceasefire in the mind and get back to that enjoyable pleasurable space with our meals.
The last thing I wanted to touch on before I wrap this one up is I that in the last video there were some comments about not feeling biological signs of hunger. Some of you were saying that what if I were to tune into my body and eat when it told me I was hungry … I would never eat because I never ever feel like I’m hungry. These questions are addressed in the intuitive eating book. What they talked is creating for yourself a 911 nourishment plan. The idea here is that if you know that you don’t really ever feel these sensations then you create a little agenda for yourself. Maybe you say I’m gonna eat breakfast at nine, my lunch is at one and my dinner is at six. And these are some of the foods that I know nourish me and that I enjoy. You just schedule it in so you’re mentally thinking about it and creating a plan for yourself ahead of time.
You don’t have to depend on the signals if you are one of those people who feel like you really just never experienced those signals. It’s a great way to continue to take really good care of yourself. Make sure that you’re not being neglected and just put a plan in place ahead of time.
I know for many of us especially those who have dieted in the past, getting back in touch with the natural biological signs of hunger can feel a little bit tricky at the beginning. It can even be a little bit confusing, but I want you to remember that this is a practice. It’s like saying to you, hey we’re going to learn how to play the guitar. You wouldn’t expect to pick up the guitar and learn how to do it in an hour. These things take time and patience and a little bit of trial and error, but it’s well worth it, especially if you want to create a very peaceful natural relationship with food.
As an allegory, think of a sensation of hunger in your body the same as if you had to use the restroom. If you had to use the restroom even if it was at a very inconvenient time you would get up and you would use the restroom. You wouldn’t feel guilty about it and you wouldn’t be ashamed about it. You would just do what you need to do to take care of your body. I want you to start thinking of your natural signs of hunger like that as well. Some of you may have weird work schedules or maybe you work night times or you have certain shifts. You could always keep little things like a pack of almonds with small snacks to keep in your pocket. So if you are at the beginning stages of learning how to do this you can stay true with the practice.
That is the wrap-up of week two, we are honoring our hunger signals. As homework for this week I would recommend keeping a hunger journal for yourself. Instead of keeping a food journal we’re keeping a hunger journal which means you would write down what time you eat. Then you would write down how hungry you are when you start and how hungry you are when you stop. Using the hunger scale for this would be a great idea. Then putting down any other notes that you have. Writing it down is a very helpful way to slow down and stay mindful and be aware of the whole process.
We would love to hear all of your thoughts, questions, ideas, those aha moments. So please go down to the comments-section and share.
In the third week of the intuitive eating series we will be talking about making peace with food. A really juicy topic. If you know anybody who could benefit from this video series please do share it with them and we’ll all do our part so that everybody can have a healthy, kind and loving relationship with food and body.
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