How do you determine when you’re actually hungry?
Can you pinpoint what natural hunger feels like to you?
The truth is, most people have no idea what natural hunger feels like for them.
They’ve stopped honoring their natural hunger signals.
And they have begun looking for the answers with food outside of themselves.
This creates a lack of awareness as to when your body is actually hungry.
In this episode, I’m sharing exactly what natural hunger really is.
And how you can learn to listen to your natural hunger so you always know when it’s time to eat.
Hello there. Welcome back to the podcast. I hope you’re having a wonderful week so far. We’re currently starting to feel some Fall weather here in North Florida. It’s actually nice cause we’re North enough where we still get a little bit of those crisp Fall mornings. But we’re definitely South enough where we don’t experience the bitter cold either. So, super grateful for the weather we’re having. Fall is definitely my favorite season without question. And I notice that Fall is also the beginning of the comfort season. So, the weather’s getting cooler. It’s getting darker out even earlier. The holidays are coming up. So for the average human, this normally means that more opportunities to eat a large amount of food present themselves. And because we’re kind of approaching that time, I thought it’d be perfect if I spend an episode talking to you about natural hunger. And whenever I bring up this topic, it’s pretty funny. Many people really won’t understand what there is to learn about hunger. Because it seems simple, right? It’s like you’re hungry or you’re not hungry. The term “I’m hungry” is something we just throw around a lot. It’s a universal thing that we all say. But as a coach who really practices this for a living, I can tell you that for most people, saying “I’m hungry” is pretty surface level. And that the humans in today’s day and age, tend to be very out of touch with what hunger really means for their bodies. And this isn’t anyone’s fault. I can look back on my past self, and know it wasn’t her fault either. We’re just not taught in our society how to honor our natural hunger with ease. And I like to describe natural hunger as simply eating the way nature intended. So, you start eating when you’re hungry. And of course, you stop eating when you’re full. And what’s really interesting is our bodies provide us with absolutely everything we need to do this. Our bodies are master equipped with signals that let us know exactly when we should start eating. And when we should stop. So, what’s stopping us from doing that? And what’s really making it so hard? It’s already common knowledge that so many are struggling to simply eat in a way that’s healthy for them, right? There’s overeating, emotional eating, unconscious eating – all of the ways that someone eats a little too much. Or eats regardless of whether or not they’re truly hungry.. So, what’s really going wrong here? What’s really happening is a lack of awareness. So, I mentioned that most of the humans have a really shallow relationship with hunger. Many people will proclaim that they’re hungry, without really understanding what that means for them and their body. And the problem is that most people have neglected checking in with their bodies natural hunger signals. Or the signals from your body that indicate “It’s time to eat”. Most people really have no idea what their natural hunger signals actually feel like. They’ve quite literally lost the ability to eat the way nature intended. They’ve lost the ability to access their body wisdom. And the term body wisdom sounds a bit fluffy. But all body wisdom is, is the inherent and natural ways your body is designed that allows it to communicate it’s needs to you to keep you alive. Your body has systems for everything to keep you alive and safe. Your body has a stress response to let you know when it’s in danger. Your body has the ability to feel pain, so you know when you’re hurt. And, your body has hunger signals, that gives you the ability to know when to eat. And the point of all of this, is that most people in our current society, aren’t even using the natural hunger signals that they are equipped with. We have this incredible programming that our bodies are built with. And most of us aren’t even using it! Most people are looking outside of their bodies to tell them how much they should eat. They’re looking for the perfect diet. They’re counting their calories. They’re trying to find meal plans online. And, I have to be totally honest. For someone in my line of work, this drives me crazy! People spend so much time and energy looking for the answers to their food struggles outside of themselves. When really, they have the ability to look inside themselves for the answers. And this isn’t their fault. As you all already know, I was no different in the past. I just wanted to figure out what worked. I had no idea what I was doing when it came to eating healthy. And these restrictive solutions are being marketed to us like crazy 24-7. The dieting industry is huge. It’s immensely profitable. Because they know the result we’re looking for. But through this approach what happens is you’re neglecting the relationship to your own body wisdom. And your body wisdom, or hunger signals, is the only thing you can trust without question to tell you when it’s time to eat. To tell you when you’re actually hungry.
Now, unfortunately, many people are used to suppressing their hunger signals. Which is when you stop yourself from eating even when you’re naturally hungry. I know for me, I would do this when I was on any type of restrictive diet where I was trying to lose weight. And here’s what happens when we don’t honor these natural hunger signals. Your body will keep increasing it’s hunger and appetite as a response. And if we really think about it, of course it does this! Your body’s only job ever is to keep you alive. Therefore, if you’re doing something that indicates you’re not keeping it alive, like not feeding it enough food when it’s hungry, your body will respond accordingly. And here’s what I find so fascinating. We’re always trying to hack the system that is our body. In order to lose weight quickly and see the results we want. So, we do whatever we can to force that result. But, you guys. Our bodies are way too advanced for that shit. Way too advanced. And it’s kind of hilarious that we spend so much time trying to trick our bodies into those results. But, anyways. Here’s what happens when you suppress your hunger signals by not eating enough. Your body will increase it’s cravings and appetite for food. It will increase weight retention. It will slow your metabolism. And guess why it does this you guys? Because your body thinks when you’re not honoring your natural hunger, that a literal famine is occurring. Your body thinks it doesn’t have access to food and that it’s in short supply. So, what does it do? It does whatever it can to keep you alive. It slows down that metabolism and retains weight to keep you alive. It increases your cravings to keep you alive. And what does this look like to you in your life? When you’re trying to eat healthier and lose weight? It looks like a lot of suffering with food and body. And a lot of overeating and then restricting. And the worst part about all of this, is that it actually diminishes your ability to access your natural hunger signals. Any scenario in which you aren’t actively listening and tuning into your hunger will suppress those hunger signals over time. So, with all of that being said, let’s just try and detach ourselves from this narrative a bit. Where we’re relying from sources outside of us to tell us when we should eat. And let’s decide intentionally that we’re going to begin honoring our natural hunger. I know you’ve been taught that for you to lose weight and see the results you want, that food should be kind of restricted. Whether that means you should only eat a certain amount of food. Or that you should only eat certain types of food. I know you’ve been led to believe that you need more willpower and grit to eat the right things. Or eat less. But this will not serve you. And it won’t bring you those natural, lasting results with food and body that you want. Where eating healthy and being at your ideal weight is second-nature to you. To become this naturally healthy eater, you have to honor your natural hunger. And I am giving you permission right here and now to honor your hunger for the rest of your life. Just in case you feel like you needed that permission for yourself.
Now, with that out of the way, I want to introduce you to a tool called the hunger scale. And this is simply a tool we can use to measure our natural hunger at any given moment of the day. It’s something you can refer to when wondering when you want to start and stop eating. So you’re able to start eating when you feel slightly hungry. And you’re able to stop eating when you’re perfectly satisfied. The scale is very simple and it can be interpreted in a number of ways. But here’s how I think of it. I want you to imagine a scale with 0 in the middle. So if you were drawing this on a piece of paper, you would draw a line. And then put a 0 in the middle. And this 0 represents the point where your body feels neutral. So you’re not hungry or full. This is the middle of the scale. Then, as you go further to the left of the middle, you get into the negatives, right? So negative one, negative two, all the way to negative five. This is the part of the scale where hunger lives. As the scale progressively gets more negative, you get more hungry. So, a negative one might mean that you’re mildly hungry. Negative three might mean that you’re very hungry. And negative five, which is the most extreme, might mean that you’re ravenously hungry. That you have to eat right at that moment. Pretty self-explanatory. To the right of the middle, you get into the positive numbers. So, positive one, two, all the way to five. This is the part of the scale where fullness lives. Now, we’re going to talk all about fullness in the next episode. But for now I just want you to focus on the left of the scale, which is representative of your hunger. And what I want you to do is create your own hunger scale based on your own body and how you experience hunger. So I want you to draw a line with 0 in the middle. And then write down-1 all the way to -5 on the left side of this scale. And I want you to very intentionally think about what each level of hunger would feel like for you.
Because there’s no right or wrong way to make a hunger scale for yourself. The way you experience and interpret your hunger may be totally different from the next person. Which is why instead of simply handing out a hunger scale for my clients, I also want them to be proactive and write down how they would define their hunger at each level of the scale. Because it will only resonate with them if they’re defining those types of hunger for themselves. They need to come up with their own hunger rating system. I kind of think of it like how I decide to rate books on Goodreads. So I do a lot of reading. And Goodreads is this book rating app that you can use to track your reading and rate books from 1 to 5 stars. I know that my interpretation of what makes a book 5 stars or 1 star is very different from someone else. I actually have a friend who frequently rates books she absolutely loves 3 stars. And for me, if I rate a book 3 stars, that probably means I didn’t even like it that much.
So, what I mean is that the way you measure hunger will always be individual to you. You need to come up with your own rating system and be curious about it. And it’s important that you look at it this way, so you’re not repurposing someone else’s definition of mild hunger or extreme hunger. I want you to be the scientist of your own body and experiment here. Be curious and observe what each level of hunger would feel like to you. How would you choose to define each level? What would each level feel like in your body? And it’s always important you’re being honest with yourself here. You need to decide what will determine what a negative one on the scale feels like for you. Or when you feel that lowest level of hunger. What is your interpretation of a negative five on the hunger scale? Or when you’re feeling the highest level of hunger? So, I recommend writing this part of the scale out for yourself. Draw a line with a 0 in the middle. And then on the left write -1 through -5. With -1 being the least hungry. And -5 being the most hungry.
To really get use out of this, here are questions I want you to ask yourself during this process. What does passive hunger feel like in my body? What does neutral hunger feel like? What does ravenous hunger feel like? At what level of the scale does hunger feel “just right”? And, by the time I eat, does hunger tend to feel more neutral, passive, or ravenous?
Asking yourself these questions really will give you so much clarity. It will allow you to define your own hunger scale very accurately. Which will heighten your awareness of your own hunger signals. And it also will allow you to observe your eating habits from a higher level. You’ll be able to understand what hunger feels like for you when you decide to eat. And what patterns you’re experiencing there. It’s so good.
And here’s the reason why I’m telling you to get curious and make it your own. Because your body will always be highly individual. And no one else can be the expert of it but you. You are the only one who can access and interpret your natural hunger signals. And this is actually the case with anything when it comes to food or your health. It’s natural for us to look outside of ourselves for the answers. Believe me I did it for years. But this is a habit you’ll want to unlearn. Because this prevents you from looking inside your own body wisdom for the answers. You will always be the best expert of you. All it takes is for you to get curious and start paying attention.
And this is why I’m always really excited to talk about this. Because the concept of hunger has become seemingly so complicated in the health industry. And it’s so simple. I promise you this. Everything with food and your body is simple. There are set reasons for why you eat the way you eat. And there are set indicators from your body that tell you when it’s actually hungry. We collectively as a society, just need to slow down. We need to take a step back, take a breather, and just observe what’s going on with our body. We need to ask ourselves, what’s our body telling us it needs in terms of food? We need to practice checking in with ourselves throughout the day and asking ourselves what our true level of hunger is? Refer to your own hunger scale when you’re getting comfortable doing this. Some of my clients like to check in with their hunger a few times a day and rate their hunger based on their own scale. Which gives them so much awareness. When you do this, you’re not eating based on what some plan tells you. This never feels authentic. It always feels crappy if you’re hungry and you’re not letting yourself eat. Instead, another option is available to you. Where you’re honoring your hunger based on whether your body wants to eat. This always feels empowering. Always. Because you’re making that decision to eat from that empowered place. I highly recommend doing this. We need to normalize honoring our natural hunger.
And I also want to mention that nothing about saying “I’m hungry” should ever be a shallow statement. True hunger always comes from the body. There’s a big difference between your brain telling you, “I want to eat right now” and your body giving you natural hunger signals. Or “being naturally hungry”. Learn to get curious here. And learn to separate your mind from your body when you’re making the decision to eat. This isn’t to restrict yourself on whether or not you should eat. It’s simply to practice having awareness. So you always know why you’re eating the way you do.
And I’ll be honest. At first honoring your natural hunger will feel very counterproductive. Because your brain still believes that a diet, meal plan, or other quick fix is the answer. It thinks it needs a step-by-step plan for you to change your eating habits, lose weight, and get results. This is just the way our brains have been wired. And know that if this occurs for you, it’s totally natural. This can feel a little counterproductive at first. Because this is a life-long practice. It takes time to build that relationship with your body wisdom. Where you trust it without question to tell you what to eat. I want you to start noticing when you find yourself spinning with food. Where you feel overwhelmed and are asking yourself “Why am I eating this way? Why am I eating those foods? What’s going on here?”. Just always take it back to the body. And check in with your body to see where she’s at in terms of her hunger levels. Notice your patterns when it comes to your hunger levels. This will give you so many of the answers you never even knew you already had. Alright my lovely friend. I hope this was valuable to you. I’ll talk with you next week.
Hey there! I'm Kat Rentas. I’m a certified eating psychology coach for women who believes that eating healthy should feel simple and sustainable. I teach hundreds of high-performing women to change their eating habits without the overwhelm. Want to change your eating habits in a way that is aligned with your needs, preferences, and goals? You’re in the right place. You can read my full story here.