How to tune into your hunger and fullness cues

Firstly, a disclaimer. This post aims to provide general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information in this post or any linked materials are not intended and should be construed as medical advice, nor is this information a substitute for proper medical care and attention. If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your trusted healthcare provider. The opinions and views expressed on this blog and website have no relation to those of any academic, hospital, health practice or other institution.

Before discussing hunger and fullness cues, it’s important to share some important information related to our body’s cues. If you’re someone who has consistently restricted and been around the diet culture mentality for most of your life, tuning into your hunger and fullness cues may be quite difficult. Most of us have been told to not trust our own bodies regulators for our whole life, but instead we should place our trust into health professionals, books, apps, family etc. to tell us when we have eaten enough. So if you’re someone who has suffered from an eating disorder, this post may not apply directly to you and instead you should follow the advice from your trusted healthcare provider who is familiar and educated in eating disorders. Eating disorders have a massive mental illness component and your body may feel like it’s in touch with its hunger and fullness cues but it’s actually just the eating disorder talking and you may need more help than this post could provide.

It’s also important to understand that we don’t have to eat when we are hungry and stop when we are full, this is just another rule around food that we don’t need. If we are out with our friends, we may be so focused on spending time with loved ones and enjoying that garlic bread that we are not purely eating for hunger, we may be eating for connection and joy and these are completely normal and healthy. To say that intuitive eating is to eat when we are hungry and stop when we are full is completing invalidating the whole other host of reasons why we eat. We eat for connection, comfort, pleasure, hunger, nutrition and all of these reasons are valid and healthy. We should eat when and what we want.

Medications, stress, diet culture, digestive disorders, illnesses, disordered eating, dieting and eating disorders care all factors that can disturb our hunger and fullness cues. So many of us just assume that hunger is when our tummies rumble, but that tummy rumble is actually a rather late sign of hunger and we may have completely missed all the little signs of hunger. This is often why we tend to overeat until we are so full we can’t move, because we postpone eating until our stomach roars and by then our body is so incredibly hungry, we may crave something energy dense and often will eat it so fast that your body doesn’t have time to tell us we are full and we end up laying down for 30 minutes with our pants unbuttoned because we have eaten so much.


1-2 – Dizzy, nauseous, no energy, physically ill

3-4 – Exceedingly hungry, stomach grumble, craving high energy foods, low in energy

5-6 – Feeling hungry, slightly low in energy, could do with a snack, body might feel full but you’re not satisfied

7-8 – Full, satisfied, eating anymore will result in discomfort

 9- Ready to burst, possibly bloated

10- Physically sick, may have been the result of a binge, nauseous


There are going to be times where food isn’t immediately available to us or we are not able to eat whenever we would like possible due to school, work, errands etc., this is when we should prepare in advance, maybe that’s meal prepping or maybe instead of eating until 7-8, possibly eat some higher energy foods until you’re a little bit uncomfortable to compensate for the period of time where you won’t have access or time to eat. This doesn’t apply to when you know you’re going to be eating a lot later on. Maybe you have planned a dinner with your friends and know you’re going to enjoy the food so you may eat more of it, this doesn’t mean that you should eat less during the day or the next day to compensate.

Your body doesn’t work within a 24-hour period, so if you eat more one day, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat the next. Just like if you go days without eating much and then binge, you’re liking to still be hungry (1-4) the following few days.


HOW TO RECOGNIZE HUNGER

Many of us assume that unless we have physical symptoms of hunger such as stomach rumbles, that we aren’t hungry. But there are many signs of hunger including many mental and other physical symptoms, in fact some of us may not experience many physical symptoms at all. For me personally, I begin to feel anxious, dizzy, nauseous, extremely low energy when I’m a 4 or lower on the hunger and fullness scale. If you’re feeling a little down, anxious, feeling like you’re not hungry at all and possibly repulsed by the idea of eating or any of the other symptoms I mentioned and you haven’t eaten anything satiating in a few hours, there’s a high chance that’s hunger presenting itself.

Recognising fullness cues can be much simpler than recognising hunger cues, this is for a range of reason but often we are told that it’s better to not eat enough than to eat too much. But fullness cues can be just as important. When we are eating mindfully and calm, we will notice that when we are eating past satisfaction we may begin to feel that we have actually stopped enjoying and savouring the taste of the food we are eating, pressure, discomfort, nausea or bloating in our stomach area and tired, sluggish, unable to concentrate. But as I’ve said previously, its totally normal and sometimes even healthy to eat past the point of satiation and remember that there is no moral obligation around food, so even if you’re eating more because you want to, feel comfort from it or whatever reason, that’s valid and you don’t need to earn your food or justify your eating habits.


WHAT IF I CAN’T RECOGNIZE MY CUES?

As I mentioned earlier, if someone has chronically diet, restricted, binged etc. it’s possible that they may have temporarily physical sensitivity to them. Regaining your hunger and fullness cues may come back naturally within time without the presence of disordered eating, but sometimes time isn’t enough and professional guidance may be needed. If this is the case for you, please look into an intuitive eating coach in your area who is familiar and practices Health at every size protocol.