Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for rebuilding trust with yourself and food.
Hunger is a fundamental, biological need, that shows your body is working as it should be.
When we lose connection with our hunger signals by not responding to them, or not eating enough, the body reacts with cravings and binges. As our body learns that we're not responding to these signals, they start to atrophy over time and our ability to respond is compromised. Your body needs to know, and to trust, that it will consistently have access to food. That means that you need to honor each and every instance of hunger by providing your body with food. What happens when we get overly hungry and can't ignore those hunger signals anymore? We find ourselves face down in a box of crunchy nut until the feeling starts to recede. Chances are, by the time you realise you're full, you've overshot your fullness signals and have overeaten as a result. Yep, no judgement - we've all been there.
Hunger. Will. Always. Win.
You will always fight a losing battle against hunger because it is there to make sure that you survive. Sure, this is common sense, and we all know it, but yet we often condemn ourselves to low calorie diets and intense exercise regimes - at the same time. We force our bodies into a place where it often has no choice but to fight back by bringing out the big guns, and weight gain is collateral damage. When your primal drive to overeat is triggered, either through restriction or going long periods of time without food, your body will naturally compensate with powerful biological and psychological mechanisms. When we skip meals or drastically lower calorie intake, the brain sends out neurotransmitters and hormones like ghrelin and neuropeptide Y - powerful orexigenics, which stimulate appetite. These continue to build, until you eat enough to "trip the switch", for the fullness hormone, leptin, to get released. Unfortunately, you can't trick hunger with anything other than food.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when getting started on honouring your hunger:
Where do you feel the physical sensations of hunger in your body? Is there a slight rumbling in the stomach or a deep gnawing? Does the sensation felt in the stomach feel pleasant, unpleasant or neutral? Are you feeling achy, dizzy or even a bit faint in your head? Do you feel sluggish, tired or irritable?
How is your mood? Do you feel snappy, curt or just a bit meh? Are you struggling to concentrate or focus? Does your overall energy level feel low? Perhaps you're starting to notice increased thoughts of food and a desire to eat?
Before your next meal or snack, connect with your body by asking yourself the above two questions. How is your overall experience of hunger - does it feel pleasant, unpleasant or neutral? If it was unpleasant, what might you do differently next time?
Whatever your experience, try to approach all situations with curiosity instead of judgement. There are no right or wrong answers. Think of yourself as a detective, put on the case of exploring your own body and internal signals. With every experience, trust is built as you get to know yourself on a deeper level.