Written by: Jessica West, August 2020
Bzzt... your phone has a notification; you check it and instantly respond to the message. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could do that when we feel hungry? The truth is our bodies do send notifications when we are hungry! We just have to learn how to notice them.
One of the ten principles of intuitive eating is to honour your hunger. This involves listening to your body’s biological signals, which is the foundation to building the relationship between you and your food (1). Here are some ways that listening to your body’s signals can benefit you:
1) Differentiating between different types of hunger:
Several types of hunger have been identified, with the main one being referred to as true hunger. True hunger is defined as a sensation which happens when your stomach is empty, and the body requires nutrients. All types of hunger are valid, and there’s nothing wrong with giving into them once in a while. The problem exists when we constantly ignore our true hunger over other types of hunger. Listening to our body’s biological hunger signals to identify our true hunger and distinguish it from other types of hunger.
2) Differentiating between hunger vs appetite:
Hunger and appetite aren’t the same thing! Earlier we saw what true hunger was, appetite on the other hand is a desire to eat which can happen even if we are not truly hungry. Ironically, appetite can also cause you to stop eating even when you have true hunger (2). For example, if you want to eat lunch but you have a stomach flu, your appetite may be so low that you avoid eating all together.
There’s nothing wrong with eating based on appetite alone. However, since appetite can cause you to ignore your true hunger signals, eating based on appetite alone all the time can cause you to either over or under eat. This table summarizes some of the signals which you can use to help you identify the different sensations of hunger appetite (1)
|True hunger indicators||Appetite indicators|
|Hunger pangs/stomach rumbles, low energy feeling, difficulty concentrating/headache.||Usually triggered by external cues such as hearing food being prepared, smelling food, seeing food. Can also be triggered by emotional factors (stress, sadness/happiness).|
3) Knowing when you are full:
Listening to your body’s signals doesn’t identify hunger alone, it can be used to let you know when you’re full too! Mindful eating encourages us to slowly chew and savour each bite so that we can know when we are full. Satiety is the point of satisfaction and fullness that you experience with meals. In other words, it is the point of “time to stop eating- I am full and satisfied.”
To experience satiety, it’s recommended that we choose foods that make us feel full (e.g- fiber, protein, fat) and those that we enjoy (3). Once we become familiar to this feeling of satiety or fullness, we can learn to listen to our body’s signals to know when to stop eating and to avoid overeating. To learn more about the difference between feelings of fullness and satisfaction, check out Alissa Rumsey’s blog post!
Learning to identify and listen to these signals takes practice and patience, so it’s perfectly normal to have some difficulty at first. For more information on mindful and intuitive eating, follow Remix Snacks for updates on their Mindful Snacking Movement. @remixsnacks
The Original intuitive eating pros. 10 principles of intuitive eating. Accessed on: Aug. 6th 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.intuitiveeating.org/10-principles-of-intuitive-eating/#:~:text=Honor%20Your%20Hunger&text=Once%20you%20reach%20the%20moment,in%20yourself%20and%20in%20food.
Healthwise staff. (2019). Hunger, fullness and appetite signals. University of Michigan. Retrieved from: https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/aa155258
Rumsey, A. (2018). Eating for fullness vs. satisfaction- what’s the difference. Alissa Rumsey wellness & nutrition. Retrieved from: https://alissarumsey.com/intuitive-eating/fullness-vs-satisfaction/#:~:text=As%20Rachael%20Hartley%2C%20a%20fellow,it%20is%20easy%20to%20overeat.