Food and Body Freedom #49 Ignoring Your Hunger Isn’t The Flex We’re Taught


It's completely normalised for folks to ignore their hunger. Because: diet culture and anti-fatness. And yet what isn't normalised is the acknowledgment of this directly undermines our health and wellbeing. Because honouring your hunger is the key to becoming a more Intuitive Eater and the expert of your own body.

This episode explores:

  • what's happening when you ignore your hunger
  • how that ends up making everything with food worse
  • practical strategies to name, rate and cultivate your hunger.

Resources mentioned:

Today I am thrilled to be diving into an exploring why ignoring your hunger isn't the flex that we're taught. And I also want to provide you some practical strategies to explore for yourself after this episode, which comes straight out of my normal diets course. So let's first explore what you think and what you notice about hunger. So I'm curious if you could kind of just consider reflect what you know, maybe could you describe what hunger feels like to you? Could you actually describe the sensations that you experience what you call hunger? Do you know where in your body that you feel that? Could you actually discern that there are varying levels like a spectrum of hunger? You know, it gets more intense it gets quieter. Do you notice anything else happening in your body at the same time that you are hungry? And one of my favourite questions to pose to you is when is the last time that you remember that you ate in response to the signals, rather than when someone else was eating the clock? What we think we're meant to do? And if you're not sure about any of these things, right now that's okay. That's pretty normal. diet culture, in no way sets you up to ask these questions of yourself. It might be the first time you've ever heard questions like this. It doesn't empower you as in diet culture does not empower you to be the expert of your body, which you are and that's what cultivating hunger and hunger signals is. Instead diet culture teaches you to feel disempowered, like you don't know and like you need others to tell you always you need an external sense of what to do and when to do it. The thing that I find really interesting, and I guess why I've titled this episode, you know, ignoring hunger isn't the flex that we're taught. It's so common. It's it's incredibly common. In fact, the norm let's say, in diet culture, for individuals denying this biological need that we have to eat, denying our hunger, and having that that kind of backlash, that there is a backlash that right it comes back to hurt us or bite us in the US. I remember painfully in fact, on every level painfully going to bed intentionally before I actually needed to sleep in the hopes that I could slip off my hunger because I was so fucking hungry. When I was dieting when I believed I only needed to eat and in stupidly low amount of calories every day. I remember being painfully hungry and the only way I felt like I could cope with that was to try to go to bed. You know, imagine, imagine having that experience if you don't have it. Imagine ignoring something else though. And I've talked about this on the pod before. Imagine ignoring your need to wait. How would that work out for you? What if you have a really full bladder, maybe you do right now? And that's not going to work out? Well, if we ignore that. So why is why is that cue and ignoring that cue in your body any different than ignoring hunger? You know, and the thing is, what's what's really important for you and for us to kind of explore here is that when we deny our hunger, our biological hunger, this sets up a cascade of responses in our body. And that is for one singular reason I'm holding up my finger with the number one because there is one clear reason that this happens and it's to make you feed yourself because we are not meant to be denying that hunger. So I mean, I hope it's pretty clear. The reason that happens is because eating is essential to life. And that's why the body is detecting a threat to survival. And I know I've talked about this on socials and here on the pod and so actually, let's get like a bit nerdy here. We have this really cool peptide neuropeptide called neuropeptide Y, and it's in full force when we are denying our hunger and it is in full force to protect us. So number one, what it's doing is it's increasing our drive to eat and number two it's increasing our drive for higher carb containing foods. So if you are getting to 2pm and 3pm, as I used to hear a lot in my early days as a nutritionist, when I had kind of generalised clients, I sold people from all different kinds of reasons. Something I heard over and over and over again, and it really kind of came full circle for me and I understood why not so long after that was, oh, all I want it two o'clock is chocolate and muffins and, you know, croissants and pastries and like it's so bad for me. Why I've got to get that under control. And at what was happening for most of these people is they were under eating all day. So lucky we have this system. Lucky we have this system that is driving us to eat driving us to seek out those higher carb containing foods because they're bang for buck. But this is also a system that's a backup. We are not meant to spend our lives in this cycle, the cycle that so many of us do spend our lives in, and I'm going to be transparent here. Eating Enough. This is something that I get so excited to watch folks experience for themselves. Eating enough and honouring your hunger is something that you might not even be familiar with at that point. This point right now today when you're listening to this, it might seem like not that important. But important enough that listening to a podcast on it, I appreciate you. And that is until you experience the magic that comes from it. It's like only then, which kind of involves a little leap of faith. I understand that. It's only then once we eat regularly honour our hunger regulate that we realise how freaking exhausted and overwhelmed and chaotic everything was before that. That's something I hear all the time. I love seeing that happen. So, I'm going to set a scenario and I'm just kind of going to encourage you to think what if anything, it feels familiar to you sounds familiar to you sounds like a place you might spend some time. So let's say you eat your lunch at midday somewhere around there, and you have like a back to back afternoon. You don't really have a chance to eat and if you are eating something it's not really that sustaining. Or satiating. And maybe you plan to go to sport to go to the gym. Maybe you're going to meet people socially. And you're you've essentially not eaten since midday is what I'm trying to say. Right so maybe at six o'clock at seven o'clock. That's a really big stretch of time without eating and if you are working out you probably having a pretty average workout because you probably don't have much energy in your body. And maybe you're also thinking about whether you're socialising, exercising whatever you're doing on the boss, thinking about how hungry you are. Because by now you've actually entered hunger, hungry and angry. And so now maybe like I love to use workouts more as Yes, absolutely for my physical health and my well being but my mental health. I love workouts being a place to unwind a place to clear my mind. And if that's been hijacked by what the hell I can eat because I'm so hungry. I'm gonna eat my arm and this workout that's impacting my workout and my mental health. And now Can Can you kind of resonate with this one. This is this is such a common experience for folks. Now you've had this plan to make whatever dinner you wanted to make for yourself. Maybe you wanted to make like a tuna pasta. Maybe you wanted to make burritos. Maybe you felt like diving into a chicken caesar salad with some like really sweet potato chips on the side. And now all of that that really exciting food that you'd been keen to make you bought the ingredients or you'd order the ingredients you know, you've got it all together. You just simply like that is impossible. Right now you're getting even the thought of making that food. It's too much. So instead what you might do is open Uber open DoorDash open, you know, whatever the heck meal delivery app you use. You order a pizza, you get the pizza, maybe you even say hey, I'm not going to eat that much. I'm just you know, this is just just for now just for convenience. And maybe you literally devour every single piece and feel terrible.
Does any of that sound familiar? Where do you find yourself if at all in that scenario, because all of this speaks to the power of your own biology. What is happening through that afternoon is that you are not meant to leave such huge gaps between eating I know how normalised that is, I know how we can bond over how strong we are and how great our willpower is. But that is disordered eating. We are not meant to go so long without eating. And so because your hunger has been denied for so long, it sets off that biological cascade so you are experiencing so physically and also psychologically, everything is telling you everything is pushing you to eat. So that's why all you can think about if you're working out or socialising is what am I going to eat? What am I going to like kind of pay attention to you. The other thing that occurs is it's really really difficult to be connected to our body. It's really difficult to be thoughtful and caring and consider what might be the most satisfying nourishing. It's hard to get the motivation so to speak, to cook a meal even if you wanted it five hours before that. This is primal hunger. This is intense. This is a full on experience. And it is simply what happens when we've left our hunger for too long. It is a compensatory biological response. And that's because eating and nourishing yourself and honouring your hunger is essential to your life and to your thriving.
It is also therefore the fundamental key to you becoming the expert of your body. So if you're at a point where I hear a lot of folks are you know, I'm making all the wrong food choices. I feel so terrible. I'm eating emotionally I'm eating way too much. I feel IQ. I'm not I'm not wanting to invalidate any of your experiences and I also want to tell you that this can be an incredibly powerful place to begin. It's where I begin with most of my clients. Are we eating enough? Are we eating regularly? Do you know what your hunger experience is? Because the rest is going to be a freaking nightmare for you for me for us. You just never gonna get anywhere. If every time you go to eat, you're here or somewhere close to here as I've just described. And that's less about you being strong and tough and disciplined and motivated and more about the fact that your body says up. So we need to we need to give it a chance. And then we can get into the refining and what is the most satisfying and what is a nutritious, enjoyable choice. Absolutely. That stuff matters. I have never said it doesn't. It just tends to be the thing we jump to but we jump to it when we're already hungry. When we're already bringing in possibly a lot of diet culture. And so if we can also stay connected to our hunger and we can get familiar with it and we can cultivate it. We're karma when we eat, we're definitely enjoying our food more. Because think about that when you're shovelling that pizza and it's not even good. I know what that's like, I've done it. I do it. I'm a human. I try not to spend too much time there, but I do. It sucks. Instead of eating when you're comfortably hungry. We're going to we're going to get into that in a moment with the practicality but I just want to really reiterate that it's meant to be calmer most of the time. It's meant to be enjoyable and pleasant to eat most of the time. And that also means we're going to stay a little bit more connected more easily to how food feels for us how full we are. So if if for you chaotic and frenzied eating is like your norm. Can you kind of just consider for a moment how honouring your hunger is actually the key to feeling in control. Because what you're very likely doing is always feeling out of control. And then we have that judgement and labelling about what we've chosen. And how icky it's felt. But there's some stuff that's happened before that. Instead of I need to be more strict. I need to ignore my hunger which is what restriction says, I need to do another diet I need to get hardcore. Instead of all that could you consider that honouring your hunger is the key you know, this is the key to respect this is the key to feeling good. This is a key to that consequential IQ IQ. I'm saying it a lot today. Like in short, less as a summary before we get into the practicality. When you are hungry. Your body employees have a variety of tactics to get your attention. And the longer that you wait to respond to that the more intense that those experiences will be. And the the opposite of that happens as well. Right? So the more that you listen, the more that you notice, the more that you respond, the easier that it is to actually experience this and navigate hunger. So from a practical perspective, when I'm saying honouring hunger, I'm actually talking about some pretty specific stuff here. I'm talking about being able to feel it and name it. We're going to do that first. I'm talking about being able to read it. We're going to do that next and being able to continue to cultivate it. And this is literally part of my normal diets course this is what all of my clients learn as like the foundational key to being able to build on and refine their food relationship and what they're eating to nourish themselves. So let's get exploring. You might want to take some notes that want to take lots of notes. You might want to even just look at the timestamps on the podcast, take a screenshot I love to do that. If that's easier, you're out walking, if you're driving, please don't do any of these things. Unless you want to pull over and have you know, have a cup of tea, have a cup of coffee and just to kind of take this in. So the first aspect of this practicality that we're going to explore is the feeling and the naming it it's really important for me to share with you that we are all different. There is no right or wrong way to experience hunger. It is not going to look the same for everybody that's okay. So how do you know you're hungry? Then? Do you know what hunger is for you? Like, am I talking about this? And you're like, Yeah, I got it. I know what that's like.
Even if you feel confident, just just like, you know, give me the benefit of the doubt here. Let's just roll with it. See if you identify these experiences or you identify with I should say these experiences so let's go to the tummy because that's the place most people go. If you're hungry, you might feel like a rumbling tummy. A gurgling I know the gurgle that's that's all me. You might feel like an emptiness. I definitely feel that emptiness. You might even feel like like ignoring like something is at you. It's kind of like that there's activity in your stomach. Let's talk about this throat. I'm touching it as we speak because this is also a really interesting area that you might notice some physical sensations because so far what I've described is kind of more physical. In your throat, you also might feel a bit of emptiness. If you're hungry. You might feel a bit of an aching for some folks. Again, ignoring sensation might be present. So let's kind of shift up in the body to the head or the brain, right? You might feel as a lot of my clients do that you start to lose a bit of concentration. You know you've got time cloudy thinking it's difficult to focus. You might kind of even tune out a little bit like someone's talking to you like what can you repeat yourself sorry. You might also be getting like lightheaded and headaches that can happen and one of the key things to keep an eye out for if you're if you don't even know where to start would be that you might start to think about food and you might start to think what might I like that that can be a sign that you are hungry. From a mood perspective, you might notice that you'll be coming like short with people with yourself. You might be cranky, you might be a bit irritable. You might find yourself kind of short tempered with with people around you, as I said it kind of snappy, your energy levels might diminish. So that's kind of more getting into different states of our body. We might feel a bit sleepy re might kind of be a bit lethargic, a bit apathetic a bit like why bother, in a sense. So which of these which of these are a signs for you that you experience hunger, and maybe none of them maybe something altogether different? What is your sign of hunger? What do you most resonate with? So that's naming it feeling it and naming it let's move on to writing it. It's really helpful to use a really simple scale again, no right or wrong. No one way to do this, it is entirely subjective. So like my number two and your number to festival we can't see it. We can't touch it. It's probably not the same. That's okay. We're just wood. We're using a system and a scale just to try to help us as individuals understand our own experience. There is no perfect here to aim for. So my rating system that I would recommend you use a zero to five with hunger. So zero is like that primal hunger that I was describing. Like it's out of control. It's painful. It's like the world will end I got to eat and five is I'm neutral. So I'm not hungry. I'm I'm nothing and using a system like this can help us become a little bit more focused on those cues, and potentially also their intensity. So what I would invite you to do is use a scale like I've suggested zero to five, where five is neutral and zero is chaotic hunger, like hunger. Use it for a few days. Like today, tomorrow the next day. And this isn't going to encourage you that before you eat and after you eat you're going to see where you you think you fit on a zero to five scale. It's going to give you a bit of a structure and a bit of a focus point of what your different experiences of hunger. So for instance, you might notice that you are feeling like kind of that that emptiness in your tummy. And for you you're not sure of the number because it's the first thing first time you've ever done this, maybe it's a four and then another time that you eat. It's like the seven hours of not eating that I described and that is zero and you are wild. And you can totally identify the differences. So that's why the scaling gets really helpful and is really helpful for my clients because we can start to see the spectrum of experiences and intensity. So now let's cultivate it. This is the final part. Of the practical. So we've got some data now we've got some ideas about what it feels like what we would call it where in the body it's happening, what number on a scale, it might be in intensity. And so now I would ask that you reflect on and invite you to reflect how the hunger that you have and the pattern that you have does or doesn't work for you. This is probably the most important part to I guess refining your experience with food in general. Because you're not going to walk around in your life unless you want to. That's cool. Going Am I a zero?
Am I a two that's that's really just in the beginning. We use these kind of tools to get familiar, because chances are you are like so many of us who have never thought about this kind of our bodies in this way or fooling ourselves in this way. It can be really new, and it can be helpful to use tools. If you don't want to use tolls, that's okay by me. They're here if you want to use them. So when we're thinking about how to reflect on this data, let's say I ate at a three my three right I go Yeah, okay. When I was eating at a three the last couple of days that was really pleasant for me. I liked that feeling. Oh, that was like a call it was it calm. It was enjoyable. I liked a three. But actually the zero I had that I had that a lot and that was awful. Hated. It was so unpleasant. So then I might ask myself, Am I eating at a zero most of the time or a lot of the time all of the time? Or is it just like you're in there? Because again, we're humans. So would it actually feel more pleasant for me? Do I want to eat more at a three regularly so I want to kind of set my life up and set my set myself up to eat more at a three. And then how do I get there? Well I need to eat more regularly because what's happening with my zero is I'm actually going 567 hours without eating. And of course I'm at a zero because hey, I learn all these things about what my body's doing. It's trying to get me to eat but I'm not loving the zero. So I'm going to focus on getting more two or three or two the aim is not to only eat at certain numbers. Again, these are tools that we use early in the journey. They are there to help you discover what is the most pleasant what is the best experience for you. So now it's time to hear from you. I have just talked at you. I want to hear from you. What is your experience with hunger? What are you really keen to explore from this episode? I would love to hear so please go ahead. Contact me send me a message on Instagram because that's where I hang out every day. Let me know what you're going to dive into. And if you've listened to this episode, you're at this point you're at the end you want to get your hands on this powerful transformative normal diets course. also reach out to me. For all of the links and notes from this episode head to my website, which is Alternatively, you find a link in your podcast player. Thank you so much for joining me I'm gonna see you next time.

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