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How to Tell When You’re Hungry or Not (and What You’re Hungry For)

hungry-or-full

Working with women on emotional eating or binge eating, one of the questions I hear most often is how to tune back into your body to know when you’re truly full or not, or even what you should be eating. After years of calorie counting, prescriptive meal plans, or measuring food, it makes sense, doesn’t it? It can be hard to hear what your body is saying without a formula, when that’s all it knows or remembers.

Fortunately, there IS a way to tune back in and re-establish the connection (and trust) between your brain and body. And it’s the simplest thing you can imagine.

The keyword being simple — not easy. Especially in fast-paced, always plugged-in lives, it can feel surprisingly challenging to slow down and integrate this simple solution. But if you truly want to be free of grams, calories, or food scales, it’s the key.

It takes slowing down, getting quiet, and feeling.

And not thinking — feeling.

Feeling what your body surfaces when you ask what it feels like eating.

Feeling how your body sensations change throughout a meal.

Feeling what it’s like to eat more slowly.

What emotions come up.

How your hunger changes.

How much better food tastes.

This has been an important distinction for me because I think so often we associate thinking with feeling. Have you ever meditated and gone crazy over the incessant voices in your head, chattering away when all you want is SILENCE? Haha, me too.

But if you sit still and notice, there’s still an awareness behind the voices, isn’t there? There’s something that’s able to watch them, observe them, know it exists outside of and beyond them… even if it seems they’re all that’s there. So what it takes is tuning into *that* part of you behind all the mental chatter.

When you have a decision to make (and I am so guilty of this) you can weigh the pros and cons until your head turns blue and there might still not be an obvious answer. But if you can get quiet and try feeling instead of thinking — does part of you know the answer? And if that’s the part of you that exists beyond your thoughts, the part of you that can watch them when they bounce off the wall in meditation or throughout your day… isn’t that a deeper wisdom worth trusting?

It’s kind of the same with food.

Try to hush the voices saying but carbs, but calories, but he said, she said, last time, next time…

Instead, get still.

Next time you’re about to eat, ask your body — not your animated brain but your body — “what do you feel like eating?”

Our bodies have so much wisdom. Maybe you’ve craved oranges for a week right before you came down with a cold. That’s body wisdom at work. When you go grocery shopping, see if there is something you deep-down gravitate toward, outside of the bright, attention-grabbing packages. Is there something your body feels like it wants that week for some reason?

And next time you have a meal, slow down, taste the food in your mouth, and feel how your sensations change throughout your meal. In your stomach, in your mood, in your fullness. See if you can start to recognize what your body feels like when it says it’s had enough. And know that it might change day to day. I know for myself personally, some days I can eat a massive grass-fed beef burger for dinner and STILL be hungry, and other days a bowl of brussels sprouts is really all I feel like in the evenings. But that feeling, for me, has unlocked the ability to tune out of all the shoulds and shouldn’ts around food, and re-establish trust and connection between my own brain and body.

You can strengthen this ability by practicing it often. Before any meal or week, ask your body what it feels like eating, and listen to see if you can sense the answer. Sometimes it might be obvious; sometimes it might not. It often gets easier over time. Slow down for your meals and give your brain and body the chance to catch up to each other. Meditate or doing activities where you slow your thoughts and instead just flow or feel, whether for you that’s painting, yoga, or walking in nature.

Like I said, it’s not easy. Not in our modern lives.

But it is simple. It is available to you no matter where you live, how much money you make, or what kind of food you eat. It just takes turning inward instead of outward, practicing trusting your body again, and getting comfortable with what it feels — outside of what it’s told to think.

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