Intuitive Eating Principle Two: Honor Your Hunger (Practical Tips)
This post in the eighth in a series on the topic of intuitive eating. Where Intuitive Eating is capitalized and italicized, it refers to the text Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. Where intuitive eating is in plain text, it refers to a more generalized non-diet nutrition framework or style of eating.
If you’ve been following this blog series, you may have noticed this is the third post on Intuitive Eating Principle Two: Honor Your Hunger. Maybe I seem a little fixated on the whole Honor Your Hunger thing . . . but I’m telling you, the fixation is warranted. After years of experience working with clients and exploring intuitive eating in my own body, I’ve found that eating adequately by honoring hunger is the foundation that intuitive eating is built on.
Before I go on, here’s my standard disclaimer: This post is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for individualized medical on mental health care. It does not constitute a patient-provider relationship. The content of this post might not feel useful to you right now – please take the information that serves you and leave the rest.
Seriously friends, I can’t emphasize this enough, a lot of us are walking around hungry a lot of the time. This may look like:
Hunger Silence. This means a lack of hunger cues resulting from chronic dieting, stress, or hunger masking – eating low calorie foods, chewing gum, or drinking calorie free beverages to “trick” your stomach into thinking it’s full. If you’re not sure what hunger feels like in your body or you can’t remember the last time you felt hungry, you may be experiencing hunger silence.
Chasing your Hunger. This means you’re spending most of your days just a little too hungry. If you find yourself feeling ravenous, panicked hunger before lunch or dinner, this is a sign that you aren’t eating sufficiently early in your day. Chasing your hunger often results in out of control eating in the afternoon, at dinner, or before bed.
Minimizing your Hunger. Have you ever told yourself you weren’t “hungry enough” to eat? Remember, there are a range of hunger levels from urgent, primal hunger to comfortable hunger to neutral (neither hungry nor full). If you’re only responding to your hunger cues when they’re urgent and distressing, you may be minimizing your hunger.
And this is where I recommend you check out Intuitive Eating and the companion workbook for more help honoring your hunger. These texts offer lots of useful content, journaling prompts, and CBT based mindfulness tools, to get you trusting your hunger cues again. But if you aren’t ready for the books just yet, or you’re needing some additional tips, scroll on -
The first step to honoring your hunger is simply to eat. Eat more. And eat consistently. But you can’t do that without adequate food on hand and some kind of plan for meals and snacks. So check the following tips to get you started eating more sufficiently.
Get those macros.
Remember, meals and snacks should have a mix of carbs, protein, and fat. Most people get a good mix of macronutrients at lunch and dinner. But here’s some inspiration in case you’re feeling stuck at breakfast and snack times:
eggs (prepared your favorite way) with toast and/or fruit
an egg bake (like a frittata or egg casserole) with veggies and black beans
cereal or oatmeal with an added source of fat and protein like 2% cow’s milk, soy milk, or nuts
whole grain toast or English muffin with peanut butter and banana
avocado toast with fried egg
protein waffles (like Kodiak cakes) with nut butter, cream cheese, or Nutella
yogurt parfait (as long as it’s not fat free!) with berries, nuts, granola, and/or honey or maple syrup
snack bar like Kind Bars, Cliff Bars, RX Bar, etc (make sure it’s bar you like and you’ll actually eat!)
a few pieces of snack cheese like Babybel or string cheese with or without cracker, pretzels, or fruit
chips and guac
pita chips, pretzels, crackers, and/or veggies with hummus
fruit with nut butter (like an apple with peanut butter)
half deli or PB&J sandwich
yogurt (as long as it’s not fat free!)
snack packs like Starbucks snack boxes or Sargento Balanced Breaks
hard cooked egg with fruit
>> Do you have more suggestions to add to these lists? Leave them in the comments!
Have a plan for meals (you actually like).
Take a few minutes to write out a handful of meals you typically enjoy. Most of us, families and single folk alike, have our go-to meals – almost everyone likes tacos, for example. Start with three or four meals on your list, write out the ingredients, and make sure you keep them in stock. This ensures that, even on the toughest days, you’ll always have a *favorites* meal available.
Over time, you can add more meals to this list. At a certain point, you may decide you don’t need to keep every ingredient for every meal on hand. Instead, your meal list will simplify meal planning and keep your favorite foods top of mind.
Convenience foods are your friend.
Seriously. Get a frozen pizza. It’s easy, cheap, and delicious. And pizza checks the carbs/protein/fat boxes. If frozen pizza feels like a wild choice, add a side salad and challenge your food fears! And, ok, frozen pizza is not the only option for convenience food. Lots of grocery stores stock high quality frozen meals these days. If frozen’s not for you, how about meal delivery kits or grocery store hot bars?
If you’ve spent a lifetime in diet culture, you might cringe a bit at the thought of all these “processed” foods. (We’ll talk more about food fears and the nutrition police in a later post.) But remember, for now your top priority is eating adequately and consistently. If convenience foods help you achieve this goal, please use them!
Keep adequate food on hand.
Have you ever come home from a long day at work, totally famished, only to realize there’s nothing to eat (or nothing you want to eat) in the fridge? Of course, you know you won’t starve. You could always order something. Heck you could always eat cereal for dinner. But even while your brain knows food is plentiful, your body is getting the message that there’s no food around. This puts your body into a stress state and amps up your already too-hungry hunger.
Most of us rate grocery shopping anywhere from *annoying chore* to *sensory-overloading nightmare*. (Side note, grocery shopping anxiety is very real. If grocery shopping feels overwhelming, you’re not alone, and support from a therapist or intuitive eating dietitian can be tremendously helpful.) But no matter your feelings on grocery shopping, having adequate food available is essential to intuitive eating. So make a plan to get to the store or have groceries delivered and stick to it.
So, are we finished with Honor Your Hunger? Maybe for this blog series, but not forever! Before you continue your intuitive eating journey, take some time to really lean into honoring your hunger. It may be a few weeks, or even a few months before you’re ready to move on. And you’ll probably continue exploring your hunger through transitions and new seasons in your life.
Remember: If you’re cold, grab a sweater. If you’re hungry, eat.