Learn How to Tune in to Your Hunger and Fullness Cues

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Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.
— Voltaire

My sophomore year in college, my grandparents were kind enough to gift me their old Ford Taurus to drive. Now, as a poor college student with very little resources, this was a gift from Heaven. No more taking the campus shuttle around town or begging for rides. I had officially moved up a level.  

I called this car, “Old Blue”, and for good reason too. It had the classic crank windows and cassette player, and unfortunately for me, the electrical system was a bit unreliable. Every so often, one of the gages would stop working, which wasn’t the safest way to drive, but nevertheless, I was happy to have a car to get me to my destination.  

One weekend, my sister and I were driving home from school in “Old Blue”, through the most torrential downpour Southern California has ever seen. We were in the thick of Los Angeles traffic when the windshield wipers decided to stop working.

We began to panic, wondering how we were going to survive this car trip. Out of despair, I hit the dashboard with my fist as hard as I could, and low and behold, the wipers started working again!

This was only a temporary fix, as the wipers would freeze again, quickly filling the windshield with blurry water pour. My sister then became the designated “dashboard hitter”, slamming the dash with her first every few minutes when the wipers would freeze up. Thankfully, we made it home, safe and sound, but not without bruised fists and fear of driving through the rain again.

Normal Hunger and Fullness Cues

As human beings, we are programmed with similar gages that help our body survive. When something in our bodies is off, we have internal controls that alert us. And just like a car that may have broken gages, our sense of direction and balance is thrown off when our internal controls are disrupted.

This is directly applicable to how we feed and nourish our bodies. We are innately born with natural hunger and fullness cues that help our body gage exactly how much we need to eat in order to stay well and thrive.

Think about a toddler who is learning to eat at a high chair. You give the toddler a couple different food options to enjoy, and what will commonly happen once that toddler has had enough to eat? Mealtime will become a play session, and that toddler will begin playing with their food, throwing their food, or squirming to get out of their seat.  

These are all normal responses for a toddler who has recognized that their bodies have had enough to eat. Similarly, a baby or toddler would give certain cues when they are feeling hungry or in need of food.

When Dieting Affects Eating Behaviors

Unfortunately, these natural hunger and fullness cues that guide our ability to eat get sabotaged by many disrupting factors that we encounter throughout our lives. It can be things like:

  • Having a dieting mentality

  • Being a chronic dieter

  • Being submerged in a dieting culture

  • Frequently weight cycling

  • Depriving yourself of food

  • Frequent periods of restricting and/or binging

Just like driving a car with a broken odometer or gas gage, it becomes difficult to trust your body or even know how to feed your body appropriately, especially when your signals of normal hunger and fullness may have become distorted.

Nourishing a Healthy Relationship with Food

Whether you have a history of chronic dieting, disordered eating, or an eating disorder, it can be hard to know how to get back to basics. Nourishing a healthy relationship with food begins with normalizing your eating habits and reconnecting with your natural instincts of hunger and fullness.   

This often means rediscovering the pleasurable aspect of eating and learning to eat what is truly satisfying and pleasurable, not according to a dieting mentality.

Another aspect of learning how to tune in to your hunger and fullness cues is developing inner awareness, or mindfulness, in regards to your body and the many sensations of eating. This will ultimately help you find greater satisfaction with eating as well.

So often, we put food in our bodies without giving any real thought to how the food tastes or without even considering, “What do I really want to eat right now?”

Learning to consider each of your senses while eating can help you reconnect with your body and better respond to your innate ability to regulate your hunger and fullness.  

Eliminating distractions while eating can also help you better tune into what your body is needing, such as putting your phone away or turning off the TV.  

Becoming an Intuitive Eater

The process of fixing your internal gages that have been damaged by diet culture or dieting is a gradual journey. If you find yourself recognizing that you don’t often listen to your body but want to regain these abilities, know that you are not alone. Awareness is the first step toward change.

Learning how to trust your body once again and tune in to your hunger and fullness cues are important principles of intuitive eating. You can develop a lifetime of freedom and joy in your eating by developing a comfortable relationship with food and your body. Reach out for help and support in you are struggling in this area and are ready to hone the innate intuitive eating skills that are already inside you!