Debunking Common Hunger Myths
With more and more people working towards intuitive eating, being able to make food choices based on our internal cues rather than external rules or guidelines has become a common goal. Although this might seem straightforward, there’s a lot of hidden complexity in hunger and fullness cues. I’ve created this post to clarify some of the most common misconceptions I hear about hunger.
I should wait until I’m starving to eat?
If you’ve experienced dieting, you may have come across the idea that it’s only “worth” eating when you’re super hungry, and you should postpone eating until the last possible moment. On the contrary, making sure you’re eating every 3-4 hours can be one of the most important things you can do to keep your energy levels, blood sugar and mood stable. Another reason that this is advised against is because the more hungry you get before a meal, the more likely you are to eat past the point of comfortable fullness to make up for it.
In the early stages of eating disorder recovery, I should use my hunger and fullness cues to guide my eating?
Unfortunately, a common feature of eating disorders is dysregulated hunger and fullness cues. This means that most often in the beginning stages of recovery, these cues aren’t a reliable indicator of when and how much you should be eating. Instead, you can work together with your dietitian to develop a guide for eating, to help your body re-attune to these natural cues and slowly move towards using them to guide you as you build your confidence.
To eat intuitively, I must only eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full?
Interpreting intuitive eating this way leads it to becoming just another diet with strict rules. True intuitive eating means also acknowledging that there’s many valid reasons to eat besides hunger. These could include for enjoyment, celebration, comfort or as part of socialising. It’s also important to acknowledge that it’s entirely natural and normal to eat past the point of comfortable fullness on occasion. Sometimes a food just tastes so good that we eat until we’re stuffed, and that’s okay.
There’s something wrong with me because I’m still hungry after I finish my meal.
There are a lot of valid reasons why you might still be hungry after you’ve finished a meal. The most simple one being that you may just not have had enough to eat. Even if it’s the portion you usually have, it’s natural for hunger to change from day to day. Another reason could be that your meal didn’t contain a balance of nutrients, specifically including a suitable portion of protein, carbohydrate and fat. Or it could be because you haven’t had enough to eat earlier in the day, and although you may have eaten an appropriate portion for that meal, your body is still trying to make up for nutrition it missed earlier in the day.
As you can see, there’s much more to hunger than meets the eye. If you want support in learning to be in tune with your body cues, reach out to work with one of our wonderful dietitians.