When we are struggling with disordered eating our hunger cues are often the first thing that we lose an understanding of. If we emotionally eat or binge eat we often don’t feel hungry because we are eating to soothe more often than our bodies need. If we restrict we usually spend so much time ignoring our hunger cues that we stop being able to recognize them altogether.
Hunger cues are there to tell us that our body needs nutrients and more energy in order to perform it’s given tasks. I know the idea of starting to listen to this can be incredibly overwhelming, but I also believe it is important to our recovery. Often what happens as overeaters is we are afraid that we won’t know how to deal with ourselves or what we are feeling if we have to wait a long time between meals. The other concern is that we believe if we start listening it means we will have to give up some of our favorite foods. If we restrict on the other hand, listening to our hunger cues represents a loss of control and is viewed as a sign of weakness. We live in fear of how ED will respond and/or believe that if we really pay attention and start responding to the cues we will never stop eating.
With both, dismissing your hunger is a way of ignoring your emotions and ignoring yourself. And neither overeating nor restricting actually deal with the struggles you are experiencing. Trust me when I say I understand that it isn’t as easy as just eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full, but maybe it isn’t as complicated as we believe either. If we took a moment to really check in with ourselves, ask ourselves what is coming up for us and actually attend to what we need perhaps we could stop the war against our bodies and instead focus on what we need to be happy and secure in our lives.
One of the easier places to start is to listen to your body. Perhaps you can’t act on anything yet, and that is okay but rather than ignoring your hunger cues, maybe you can choose to start recognizing them by using the fullness scale. Ask yourself, on a scale of 1-10, how hungry and/or full you are – with 1 being starving and 10 being overly full. On average throughout the day you want to even out to about 5 but you don’t want to go below 3 or above 8 on a regular basis. Make it a habit to ask yourself this periodically throughout the day and keep a journal to see what you are averaging.
If you have lost touch with your body due to disordered eating this is a way to get back in touch. Learning to pay attention -and in time respond – to your body and its hunger cues will make it easier to take small steps forward that seem more manageable. Begin with just noticing. As that becomes easier challenge yourself to respond to your cues once in the day and build from there.
Our bodies are incredibly smart. Give yours a chance and take a moment to listen to what it is trying to tell you.