The second principle of intuitive eating is honouring your hunger. Your body needs to have adequate energy and nutrition to function properly so when it is running low, it’s designed to tell you by giving you physical hunger cues. This sounds so simple and yet this very natural and biological process has been ruined by the diet industry and the society that we live in.
The diet industry has most people believing that hunger is a sign of weakness and therefore listening to these cues makes you weak as well. Wherever you look, you always see tips to trick your body into thinking that it’s no longer hungry. This is actually dangerous and counter-intuitive for many reasons. When a person ignores their hunger it sets off a biological cycle that affects a person physically as well as psychologically.
A build up of hunger results in something called “primal hunger”. When primal hunger sets in, a person’s need to eat is urgent and intense and often leads to overeating. The best example of this is given by the authors of The Intuitive Eating book, who compare this hunger to holding your breath under water. After a while, you can no longer hold your breath and when you come up for air you take a big gasp of air rather than a normal inhalation. Our body is designed this way in order to compensate for what it is lacking. In other words, after letting yourself go hungry for a while, when you do eat, you will tend to eat larger portions, eat more quickly and eat more nutritionally dense foods.
Psychologically, not listening to hunger can decrease concentration levels and can affect a person’s mood. It has been so common to ignore hunger that a new word has been invented to describe this mood: “hangry”. Hangry is a mix of hungry and angry and refers to acting grouchy because a person is hungry.
This primal hunger happens every time there is a hunger build up, but a chronic dieter does not see these signs and after some time learns how to ignore their hunger cues completely. As a result, there is a disconnection between them and their bodies and they may lose the ability to feel hunger at all. This can be very frustrating for someone who is learning to eat more intuitively because they no longer trust their body and need to relearn what hunger feels like. This can be a longer and more difficult process than most diets but also produces much more rewarding results.
Therefore, honouring your hunger is not about knowing the nutrition information of food or listening to eating rules, but more about learning to listen to your body’s cues. It is the best form of self care and helps you develop a good long term relationship with food and with your body.
As a reminder, there are ten principles of intuitive eating:
- Reject the diet mentality
- Honour your hunger
- Make peace with food
- Challenge the food police
- Feel your fullness
- Discover the satisfaction factor
- Cope with emotions without using food
- Respect your body
- Feel the difference movement makes
- Honour your health with gentle nutrition