Hunger, Fullness, and How to Listen to Your Body Better | TMOHP Episode 096

Some of the most non-helpful advice for ending overeating is to “eat only when you’re hungry, and stop eating when you’re full.” It’s not helpful because it’s usually delivered with no explanation of how to execute this plan. And if you knew how to do it, wouldn’t it already be happening? Diet mentality disconnects you from your own body awareness. Many chronic dieters no longer know when or if they’re hungry. Busy women get caught up in patterns where they don’t take time to eat, they get too hungry, and then they overeat. Mindless eating (a major cause of overeating) happens and we don’t even think to check in to notice if we’re hungry. So how do you break the cycle?

In this episode, I’m covering how to get better at eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full by learning how to identify your hunger and fullness and how to listen to your body better.

In this episode:

  • How diet mentality disconnects you from your awareness of hunger and fullness
  • How to get better at eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full
  • The Hunger Scale and how to use it
  • Practices for tuning in to what your body needs
  • Practices for getting better at noticing when your body is full or satisfied

Resources mentioned in this episode:

  • Not sure why you’re overeating, or what your Hidden Hungers are? Take the free Hidden Hungers Quiz and get a free set of resources matched to your results. 
  • Your Missing Peace  is the program for women ready to stop overeating and emotional eating for good. Enrollment is open and NOW is the perfect time to join us! Go here to learn more
  • Private Coaching. One-on-one coaching is for you if you’re looking for something completely individualized and specific to your situation. Openings are limited. Learn more here.
  • Continue the conversation in my private community on Facebook

Episode Transcript

Hello everybody. Welcome back to the podcast, and if you're new here, welcome. Today I'm going to talk about a couple of concepts that seem so simple that a lot of people feel frustrated or frustrated with themselves, that they don't really connect with them or understand them. Today I want to talk with you about hunger and fullness and how to listen to your body better.

So let's talk about hunger and listening to your body. Some of the most vapid weight loss advice that also sounds incredibly common sense is eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full. In fact, I did a Google search on those terms and there are whole articles written about eating when you're hungry, stopping when you're full. How I lost weight- I only ate when I was hungry. If you're somebody who overeats or binge eats or fights with emotional eating, I am sure you have thought about how lovely this whole setup would be. To eat only when you're hungry and stop when you're full, when you're satisfied. 

I'm not actually sure how this is advice. I mean, every woman who has ever struggled with overeating knows that on some level this makes good sense. And everyone who struggled with overeating has also probably beat themselves up because that's not what happens. Either you eat when you aren't hungry. Or you overeat and you get too full. Or you weren't even paying attention to those things when you ordered whatever you ordered off the menu. Or you weren't paying attention to those things while you ate. It happens all the time. You might not even know when you're hungry anymore. Or you may not have felt hunger in a very long time. 

If you have fought with overeating for a while, or if it feels like you've been on this hamster wheel with your relationship with food and with overeating and with your weight, then it is quite likely that you are out of touch with hunger and fullness, either a little bit or completely. And that can really get in the way when it comes to creating freedom from overeating. And it definitely gets in the way when it comes to creating a peaceful relationship with food. 

The idea of eating only when you're hungry and stopping when you are full may make sense. But deprivation thinking and diet mentality do not encourage us to be in touch with our bodies. Deprivation thinking and diet mentality do not encourage us to be in touch with our needs or our appetites or our hungers. 

In fact, diet mentality imposes a set of rules and plans on you. Right? Diet mentality gives you a set of rules or a food plan and says, this is what you should do. A diet plan is composed of externally decided shoulds. When you should eat. How much you should eat. When you should be hungry. When you shouldn't need to eat. When you should stop eating.

Following a diet is the opposite of being connected to yourself, to your body, and to your own personal sense of hunger and of fullness. I can't tell you, well, I probably don't even need to tell you how many women tell me things like, well, I really shouldn't be hungry. I ate lunch an hour ago. Or, I should eat I know I should eat it's lunchtime. Right?

I can't tell you how many of us have learned to judge our hunger based on these rules that somebody else made up. Diet mentality teaches you to evaluate your needs, your hunger from an outside perspective. From this place outside of you. Based on a set of standards or rules or some plan that doesn't know you. That doesn't know your body, that doesn't know your hormone levels. That doesn't know what's happening in your day-today or what your activity level has been. 

This is not how bodies work. This is not how we tune into ourselves. This does not help us to be connected to our feelings or to our hunger. And guess what? If you don't know when you're hungry, you are going to have a very challenging time knowing when you're full or when you're satisfied. It all fits together. 

Our physical sensation of hunger and fullness, our need for food and fuel. This is something we learn from the inside. We learn it by paying attention to ourselves, by being inside our bodies. It is an embodied experience. We learn about hunger and fullness, not from paying attention to outside rules or clocks or calendars, or by what worked for somebody else.

Extreme diet and weight loss advice, or actually constant diet and weight loss advice, these things can lead us to be completely out of touch with our own hunger and fullness levels. Your relationship with food is so connected with your ability to feed yourself. With your ability to care for what your body needs, your hunger, your fullness, your feelings of satisfaction. And so, that is impossible to do. It is impossible to create freedom from overeating and peace with food if you are not in touch with what your body needs. 

There is another thing that can get you completely out of touch with hunger and fullness, and that's mindlessness. So much overeating happens on autopilot, and one of my big frustrations with this is that because it is eating that happens mindlessly, it's not even satisfying. We're not even tasting it and enjoying it. 

Mindless overeating is just a reaction. It's an automatic behavior. It's something we do without really paying attention. Either because you're just used to reaching for food when you feel a certain way. Or you are just used to filling your plate to the size that the plate allows you to. Or you're just used to eating the portion that they bring you in the restaurant without really thinking about things. Without really thinking about what you want, how much you want. Without really thinking about what you need. Without really thinking about what your body is feeling. Without really thinking about does this taste good? 

Automatic eating, mindless eating happens when you're not really thinking about how much of this thing will leave my body feeling good and full and satisfied. Mindless eating is not really thinking, it is not being aware of hunger and fullness. 

I hope you can see how important being tuned into your hunger and to your fullness and being able to pay attention to your level of satisfaction, how these things are important if you're working to create, if you want to feel freedom from overeating.

So, let's talk about how to tune into your own hunger and your own fullness so that you can get better at eating when you're hungry. And stopping when you're full or satisfied. Now, the first thing I want to say is that this is probably going to take some practice. Know that you are not the only one who gets confused about whether she's hungry or full.

So many women get confused about this and all of them start telling me about this with the sentence or some similar sentence like, I know this is silly, but... or I know I should know this, but... 

No, you are not the only one who gets confused about whether she's hungry or full. And there are reasons that you're out of touch with this, and it is totally possible to build that ability back up or to reconnect with it. Give yourself permission to get better at it. Okay? 

The key here is going to be practicing something that is the opposite of what diets have taught you. That's one of the reasons this is so hard. This is the opposite of what diets have taught you. You're going to want to practice listening to yourself. And with practice, you're going to learn about your own cues. The own your own signals that you have inside your body for when you're hungry and when you're satisfied. And it is going to take practice, but it is so worth it. 

One tool that can be really helpful is something called a hunger scale. This is something that we play with Inside the Missing Peace Program around hunger and fullness. You can play with this on your own. A hunger scale is just a rating scale that goes from zero. Which would be absolutely empty, super hungry, goes from zero to 10. Which would be so stuffed that you are physically uncomfortable. You need to loosen your belt or loosen your pants. You can't get up off the couch. You are done for the night. Right? You are so full. So you have a hunger scale from zero to 10.

The thing that is important here is that hunger happens on a spectrum and so does fullness. So there is this spectrum of sensation from zero to 10. But if you've been taught not to trust your own signals, you might experience hunger and fullness as two all or nothing feelings. So many women have learned to ignore their hunger.

We don't think about this when we're talking about overeating, but so many women have learned to ignore their hunger because of diets and busyness and paying attention to other people's needs. As a side note, I was thinking about how when my kids were little, there were multiple times when I would be in the kitchen in the morning making everybody's lunches before they got out the door, and then I would get to work and I didn't have a lunch. Right?

It is so easy. We have so much conditioning around ignoring our needs and taking care of other people's that many women ignore their hunger until they get really, really hungry. When we're really hungry, it is hard to make good choices. When you don't eat all day, and then you get home from work and you are starving and your blood sugar is low and you're exhausted and everybody else is tired and you're trying to shift gears into the next part of your day. It is a recipe for overeating or binging. Which, think about it, you started off too hungry, and now there's this recipe for continuing to eat until you feel too full. 

Hunger and fullness are not just two things. They happen on a spectrum. So one practice that you can play around with is to expand your understanding of your own hunger and fullness. And play with that whole range of zero through 10. Practice rating your hunger and fullness on this scale. Right? Practice paying attention to how empty am I? How hungry am I? How full am I? 

You likely are going to know just a couple of the numbers on the scale. Your, your numbers are going to vary, but maybe you'll know what a four is and what a nine is. Very few people can fill in all 10 numbers on that scale. And by filling in the numbers on the scale, I mean being able to describe what it feels like for you when you are a one on the hunger scale. When you are so hungry, you are almost empty. Right? Maybe you have a headache or maybe you get kind of dizzy. Or maybe when you're a four you start to feel a little off, and when you hit two, you get hangry and you get frustrated with people. Very few people can fill in every single number on that scale about in terms of what it feels like. 

If you want to get better at eating when you're hungry and stopping when you're full, this is a skill that you're going to want to practice. And you don't have to get super picky about it. You don't need to know every single number on the scale, but maybe every other number set a goal of knowing what a two, a four, a six, and an eight feel like inside your body.

What are the signs? What are the symptoms? How do you recognize that you are starting to get hungry? Or that you are starting to get full? Or that maybe if you keep eating, you're going to feel overly full. Play with the hunger scale. See what comes up for you. Be curious about it. Be open to learning, and be open to practicing and giving yourself some time.

The other thing that you might want to practice is simply asking yourself the question, how hungry or full am I? How hungry am I? Am I hungry? Am I full? How full am I? This is something that you can do when you have a craving. This is something that you can do before you sit down for a meal. This is something you can practice doing when you pick up a menu in a restaurant before you look at what looks good. You could start by asking yourself, what do I know about how much food would feel satisfying? 

How hungry am I? This is something you can play with by asking yourself when you're eating out in a restaurant or if somebody else is serving up your plate for you. When the food arrives before you start, how hungry am I? How filling does this look like? It could be. 

Many of us have been conditioned to eat the food and the amount of food that gets set in front of us, that gets decided for us. But just because a full plate of pasta arrives, or a big piece of pie gets set down in front of you, this doesn't mean that that is the amount of food that your body needs or even the amount of food that you want.

Learn to practice asking yourself, what do I need right now? What is my hunger level? What is my fullness level? Am I full? Am I satisfied? Experiment. Literally experiment with putting your fork down or putting the food down a few times while you're eating and just being curious. Am I hungry? Am I satisfied? Am I getting close to being satisfied? 

Getting in touch with hunger and fullness from the inside out and unmooring yourself from those old diet rules about whether you should be hungry and when you should be hungry. It takes practice. Give yourself space. Give yourself grace. Design an experiment that you can conduct to give yourself the next week and design an experiment around hunger and fullness.

What could that look like? Well, you could designate some times during the day, periodic times when you are going to check in with yourself and ask that question, how hungry or how full am I? Maybe you're going to use the Hunger Scale. Put a number to it. I'm a two, I'm a seven. Set some reminders to help you remember that you are going to do this experiment. Because you're human and because you probably have a lot of condition in thinking about your hunger the old way from the outside looking in.

So decide when you're going to check in with yourself. Set some reminders. And give yourself permission to not be a perfectionist about this. To not make it all or nothing. To not have to get a hundred percent or an A plus, whatever that is. To not be so tuned in or good at this at first. Practice learning more about you.

Practice learning more about your hunger and your fullness. And then keep track of what you learn when you ditch other people's rules. Because that's what the old way is. 

When you ditch the old diet mentality and you tune into your own hunger and your fullness. And when you learn more about what it feels like to eat when you're hungry, and stop when you're satisfied.

I'll talk to you soon.

Enjoy the show?

If you love this podcast, will you take 30 seconds to leave a review? It makes all the difference in my ability to share this information!

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Your Missing Peace is the psychologist-designed program that provides the tools, the support, the coaching, and the confidence to create freedom from emotional eating and overeating. Finally - emotional eating help done right! Your Missing Peace is specifically designed for smart, high-achieving women who are DONE with diets, who want a lasting solution, and who are ready to take their power back from food, from overeating, and the scale. 

You may also like