Recently I started bringing more awareness to my hunger signals and realized I have some work to do here. I’m currently taking the Hungry For Happiness Certification, which will certify me as an Intuitive Eating and Body Freedom Coach. In our first lesson we talked about physical hunger versus emotional hunger and whether or not we feel safe in our physical hunger. I quickly noticed that I don’t always feel physical hunger in my stomach, so I wanted to share more about hunger and intuitive eating in this post.
As I started to pay more attention to my physical hunger over the past few weeks, I noticed some days I didn’t feel the usual stomach pains and grumbling. So I sat and waited longer and sometimes that meant I didn’t eat my usual afternoon snack. I was working on feeling safe in my hunger because I did notice I do experience a bit of anxiety when I feel hungry. I think there is still a fear there that if I get too hungry it will trigger me to binge. And in fact, I do tend to overeat when I get too hungry. I noticed when I sat in my hunger and worked on feeling safe, knowing that my body will take care of me and that food is abundant, when I did go to eat I didn’t overeat.
Back in my restriction days I also feared not eating often enough because I thought my metabolism was going to crash. I’m pretty clear that that is no longer a fear for me, as I truly know and believe it’s not true. What I did notice is that I was under eating when I just waited to feel hunger in my stomach. How do I know I was under eating? Symptoms I used to get when I was in that restrict-binge cycle started to crop up pretty damn quickly. Symptoms like having trouble sleeping and waking up early, constipation, grinding my teeth at night and peeing more than usual. These are all common signs of a stress response in the body and suppressed thyroid function.
You see, our body is damn smart and will slow thyroid function when we aren’t getting enough food, because it thinks we’ve entered a famine and wants to keep us alive. Burning less energy helps us conserve energy, which is why diets do not work long term. This made me realize my body also has other subtle hunger signals that don’t reside in my stomach. These can include low energy, headache, an emptiness in my stomach, weakness in my muscles and thoughts around food.
Often I find people think with intuitive eating they should only eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. They can approach intuitive eating with a rigid black and white mindset, which is exactly the opposite of what intuitive eating is meant to achieve. Intuitive eating is about listening to your body and you may also realize you have more subtle hunger signals too. And, you may eat when you don’t feel hunger at times because you’re celebrating something with someone or just enjoying food that tastes damn good! Intuitive eating from what I understand and have learned, is about trusting and honoring your body. Sometimes that means you may eat ice cream because it nourishes you on a different level in that moment.
There might be times when you get really hungry but for whatever reason can’t eat for awhile yet. You aren’t failing intuitive eating if you eat when you’re not hungry and don’t eat when you are. The important thing is to always come back to the intention behind your choices and if they come from love, rather than fear, you’re on the right track.
One thing is for sure, I feel for those stuck in restriction and dieting because that is no way to live with all those symptoms. I feel so much happier when my body is nourished and taken care of. I’m more productive, feel more comfortable in my skin and and find it easier to connect with myself.