“Just listen to your body!!” they said… “It’s easy!” they said… except when it’s not. It’s common for our bodies to lose their ability to give us signs of hunger after years of dieting, following food rules and restricting food. This blog post will go over how to get your hunger cues back which is one of the first steps in being able to “listen to your body” and become an intuitive eater.
What Are Signs Of Hunger?
Signs of hunger, or “hunger cues”, are clues that our bodies give us as to when they’re in need of energy (i.e. food). Each person may experience different signs of hunger but here are a few common examples:
- A grumbling tummy
- Feeling faint or fatigued
- Getting cranky or irritable
- Not being able to concentrate
- Starting to think about food
- A tightness of heavy feeling in your throat
- Stomach discomfort
Like I said, everyone is totally unique in what their own hunger cues are. For me? It’s usually starting to think about food and not concentrating as well, a grumbling in my stomach, and/or getting cranky (a.k.a. HANGRY!)
Why Do We Lose Our Hunger Signals?
When we diet, follow food rules/lifestyles/plans, etc. we are essentially disregarding our bodies signals. After doing this for so long our bodies basically say “Man… this is like talking to a brick wall.. She isn’t listening to me! Why even bother?!” So? They stop giving us those hunger signals.
This is why so many people have difficulty “listening to their body” when they first stop dieting or restricting food. They literally don’t have anything to listen to! This can feel super frustrating and discouraging but there is good news… you can “wake up” those signals and get them back!
By following the steps below you’ll be able to get your hunger cues back and be able to actually have signals of hunger to listen to! These are the exact same steps that I teach to members of The SociEATy who have found success with intuitive eating and now you can too!
How To Get Hunger Cues
Step #1: Stop Setting Limits
This means it’s time to delete your MyFitnessPal app, stop counting WW points, end macro counting, no longer measure your food, etc. Now, if you just basically had a brain aneurysm at the thought of no longer tracking then be sure to check out my blog post on how to stop counting calories for tons more tips (all of the info is applicable to points/macros/etc!)
This is a KEY step. Why? Your body is likely going to need MORE food at the beginning of your intuitive eating journey. It needs to “make up” for the time you spent restricting it. It needs to get back to a FED state. I have a blog post all about what to expect when you stop dieting that you can checkout but one of the big things is that it is common to want MORE food overall. And if you’re tracking? Well, that can hinder your ability to get to a fed state and ultimately get those signals of hunger back.
Step #2: Give Your Body Adequate, Consistent Energy
Like many of us, our bodies like consistency. They like to know that food and energy are coming in a steady stream throughout the day. So, I recommend giving your body some nourishment every 3-5 hours by ways of meals & snacks. Now, you could totally be hungrier at the 1-2 hour mark, especially if your body is going through extreme hunger and really getting out of a deprived state. But offering food every 3-5 hours can be a good starting point.
Remember how our hunger cues “shut off” when we don’t listen to them? Well, giving your body food on a consistent basis serves to “wake them up”. For them to say “Ooooh! Hey! She is back! I can talk to her now- it’s not just a brick wall!” It’s kinda like an invite for your body to start talking to you. It also prevents the biological urge to binge food when we get too hungry.
And yes, you should still offer your body food even if you’re not feeling hungry (you don’t HAVE hunger cues!). This doesn’t mean you need to have a huge 5 course meal every 3-5 hours. More so I mean to pack snacks. To use some of what I call practical hunger to say “Hmmm… it’s been a while since I’ve given my body energy, it could probably use some”.
Step #3: Get Familiar With The Hunger Scale
After you’ve started to notice some hunger signals it’s time to learn how to interpret them. To do this I like to use a tool called “the hunger scale”. I have an entire blog post that goes over how to use the hunger scale (and gives you the one I use!) but here is a run down:
The hunger scale is a scale of 1-10 with 1 being you’re SO hungry you might die (slight exaggeration) and 10 being you’re SO full and food coma-ed. The more that you begin to practice using the hunger scale the more you’ll be able to interpret your hunger (and fullness!) signals. You’ll start to understand when you’re approaching hangry and when it’s time for a snack VS a meal.
It takes time and practice to be able to interpret your body’s signals, so don’t worry if you are like “I have ZERO idea how to do this!” Pretend you’re an archer who has never shot a bow and arrow. Of course you won’t hit a bullseye! But with practice you’ll get closer and closer more frequently. Same thing here!
At first it’s also common to only notice when you’re either starving or stuffed. Think again about that archer. The bullseye doesn’t just HAPPEN, they likely inches inwards, getting closer and closer to it. The same thing happens with your hunger signals returning: at first they’re extreme hunger or fullness but the more your practice the more subtle, middle-ground cues you’ll feel.
A Final Note On Signals Of Hunger
One very important thing to remember is that your body didn’t stop giving you hunger cues overnight… so it won’t give them back to you overnight either! It takes time and building trust with your body for your signals of hunger to get stronger.
Another thing I’d like to note is that hunger is a lot “easier” to identify than fullness is. It’s much more primal. So, for this reason I recommend you first start recognizing your hunger and waiting to really focus on the fullness part. It can be super confusing to do both at the same time. Now, I don’t want you to disregard your fullness, obviously, but first focusing on getting nice, strong hunger cues is step 1.
I do have a blog post with my top 10 tips for how to stop eating when full & satisfied if you’re ready to take that step into the fullness side of things!
You got this, gorgeous! Your hunger cues are about to come back nice and strong!
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PS. If you’re ready to finally find food freedom that actually feels good (mentally AND physically!) join us inside of The SociEATy to get your step-by-step roadmap for how to do just that AND gain hundreds of new food freedom BFFs to give your support, encouragement, and advice!