“Intelligence is present everywhere in our bodies. Our own inner intelligence is far superior to any we can try to substitute from the outside.” ~Deepak Chopra
“Hunger: One of the few cravings that cannot be appeased with another solution.” ~ Irwin Van Grove
Diets teach us to ignore hunger and to control it. But when we do this, the different levels of hunger become more and more difficult to discern. Eventually, we can no longer identify them and can only “hear” hunger when we are extremely hungry. The result is predictable—when we are over-hungry, we end up overeating.
Even worse, the more we try to control hunger, the more difficult it becomes to identify the gentle sensations of fullness. If we can no longer tell when we are full, we will end up overeating. No wonder we believe we cannot be trusted with food. No wonder we are vulnerable to the diet industry’s message that our appetite must be controlled and that following a diet is the best way to do it.
But deep down we know, after years of trying to tame or ignore our hunger, more control does not help us control our food intake. Oh, sure, for a few days it does—temporarily reinforcing the belief that “If I just had a bit more control, this would work.” But when we look at the big picture, we realize that control has gotten us nowhere.
As we begin to accept this truth, we become aware of another truth that the diet industry does not want us to know: that we do not need them. We have natural gauges that guide us and give us the ultimate control. When we reconnect with and trust our internal signals of hunger and fullness, when we reconnect to that innate wisdom with nonjudgmental self-awareness, we find the most powerful control available.
This makes sense. The primary purpose of hunger is to signal to the body that it needs to eat. The basic goal of eating is to relieve hunger. If we are not in touch with hunger, or aware of how hungry we are, how will we know how much to eat? And when to stop eating? It’s clear that tuning back into our natural gauges is critical.
Is reconnecting easy? No. But because the amazing freedom that comes from attuned eating is so powerful, it is well worth the effort!
Tip: Just for today, notice how eating relieves hunger. If eating does not relieve your hunger, or if eating seems to make you think more about food, realize, without judgment, that this may be related to a history of dieting and restrained eating or to trying to “eat healthy.” Keep tuning into your hunger—and fullness—signals, giving yourself and your body time to reconnect with these reliable sensations. For support, consider working with a dietitian skilled in hunger work.
Affirming Statement: “My hunger is a gift; it tells me when I need fuel.”
Contributed by Nutrition therapists Amy Tuttle, RD, LCSW and Karin Kratina, RD, PhD.