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Step By Step Intuitive Eating: Principle 2

Begin Intuitive Eating by Honoring Your Hunger I did not truly know what it was like to be hungry. I only knew what it was like to be ravenous. And when you’re ravenous, the pleasure of eating is quite diminished. In order to begin intuitive eating, I needed to learn about hunger. Primal Hunger Intuitive Eating (affiliate link) taught me that this level of hunger – feeling ravenous – was referred to as Primal Hunger, and it occurs when your body has already sent you some signals that it needs more nourishment… and you’ve ignored them. It happens when the hormone Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is being released in urgency, increasing your appetite and desire for food. This stirred up a memory: most days, when I would arrive home from my work day and gym session, I felt unable to consider making anything for dinner and instead I grabbed all the snacks I could find in the kitchen and ate them there, standing by the counter with cupboards open. Sound familiar? 4 Types of Hunger There are 4 types of hunger we experience:

  1. Biological: you body needs fuel. This is that stomach-growling, thinking-about-food, type mentioned above

  2. Emotional: food can signal endorphins to release, creating comfort and soothing us at times when we may need a bit of TLC

  3. Practical: sometimes we need to eat before our hunger signals launch because we know it will be awhile until we are able to eat – for example, eating a snack before going to a movie over the dinner hour

  4. Taste: there are times we are just wanting to experience the tastes of foods. We do this often when celebrating birthdays and holidays and enjoying special treats

Four types of hunger and I couldn’t quite recognize any of them yet. What signals was I missing? Or was I just ignoring them? It was hard to tell, but I suspected I was both missing them and ignoring them. After all, I’d spent years perfecting the act of denying my body any of its needs. My body did not trust me, understandably. Every good host first offers food and drink. But I still did not know what hunger, moderate, low-level hunger, felt like in my body. When you’ve ignored signals for so long, tuning in is kind of uncomfortable. It’s like exploring new, potentially dangerous territory. I didn’t really want to focus a lot of energy on sensations in my stomach, but I did really want to come home and feel I could take my time in preparing a meal to enjoy. Learning to Listen to Your Body In Intuitive Eating (affiliate link), Tribole and Resch encourage regular check-ins with yourself. This sounded like something I told clients to do all the time in order to attune to their own needs in the moment. How does it feel to say that? How does that emotion feel in your body? Can you feel anything as we discuss this? Funnily enough it was not something that I regularly practiced. When I did though, I learned a lot. I started to notice how often I was thinking about food, especially between lunch and dinner. This affected my concentration during the day. Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels It occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, others were not lusting over the idea of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich everyday at 3pm.I also noticed the way my peripheral vision became just slightly fuzzy when I was thinking about food. Ah! When I am hungry, I often think about food, struggle to concentrate, and have difficulty visually focusing. To bring the exercise full-circle, you’ll need to acknowledge the hunger and also honor it. Honor it? Yeah, eat. This meant when I could practically smell the peanut butter and jelly in my daydream, I needed to have a snack, preferably a PB&J. 4 Tips To Honor Your Hunger And Begin Intuitive Eating

  1. Add some easy, portable snacks to your car, your lunch box, your purse, a drawer in your desk, or locker. Think variety!

  2. Set a timer on your phone to check in with yourself every 2-3 hours – are there hunger signals you’re ignoring? Listen closely!

  3. Reflect on your energy levels at the end of each day in a journal – were there times you were feeling sluggish or had trouble concentrating? Consider adding some additional food before this time period the next day.

  4. Notice any thoughts entrenched in diet culture that might pop up. Notice them, challenge them.

Bringing a few additional items in my lunch box was a way to give myself the option to honor my hunger with minimal effort and less commitment (I was still scared; if I began intuitive eating… what would happen?) For a while, I second-guessed it. I couldn’t possibly be this hungry this early. And thoughts rooted in diet culture popped up too: Is this ‘letting go?’ or Eating now will mean I eat a lot more and gain weight every day and It’s okay if it’s fruit. But I got better at recognizing those thoughts as manifestations of a culture that does not support me, a society that has controlled me. Each time you honor the hunger, each time you tune-in to your body and fulfill its needs, that diet mentality gets just a little quieter. And each time you nourish your body in the moment, responding to a hunger cue, you begin to build trust with it. Your body is a biological being – you’re an organism. The cells that make up your body are designed to maintain it, to promote health within it. They’ve gotten you this far, despite it all. And they don’t lie as long as you listen.


May 5, 2021 Ellie Herman LCSW 10 Principles, Intuitive eating, Uncategorized diet culture, disordered eating, eating disorders, HAES, honor your hunger, intuitive eating 2 responses to “Step by Step Intuitive Eating: Principle 2”

  1. Intuitive Eating With Ellie says: May 14, 2021 at 1:32 am[…] Biological: your body lacks the food and begins releasing those hunger cues […]

  2. Intuitive Eating With Ellie says: May 14, 2021 at 1:41 am[…] never quite know when we will feel that first twinge of hunger because hunger is affected by soooo many factors. Living busy lives, it’s important to have […]


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