Hunger has helped mankind survive since the beginning of time. Without a primal drive to seek food in times of need, the human species would have ceased to exist. This is why statements like, “I am an awful person because I overate,” or “I ate this food because I don’t have any control,” are misguided and unhelpful.
It may come as a surprise, but the body doesn’t respond to shoulds and food rules. Our body has a process that is remarkably efficient when we let it do its job without interfering.
During the day your body gauges a number of things including blood sugar levels, hormone levels, and stretch receptors in the stomach. If levels vary from acceptable, and the stomach is empty, your brain triggers the hunger response. If we refuse to eat intuitively, by either under eating or ignoring hunger signals, our digestive system interprets the lack of nutrition as starvation. When our body realizes the energy deficit, it fights back by causing extreme hunger, anxiety, dizziness, crankiness, etc to protect against the effects of malnutrition. We may interpret these signals as lack of willpower and drive, when in reality our organs are working hard to combat starvation.
The authors of Intuitive Eating have this to say about honoring your hunger:
“Keep your body fed biologically with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise, you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for rebuilding trust with yourself and food”.
In other words, to avoid chaotic eating you must do something that feels completely counter intuitive--eat!
Some helpful tools for preventing hunger include:
- Checking in with yourself every couple of hours to gauge your hunger and then acting upon it if needed
- Combining carbohydrates and protein sources for energy and lasting satiety
- Planning meals and snacks ahead of time
- Keeping snacks on hand in case of hunger
For most people, the most distressing eating disorder behavior is overeating or bingeing. Hopefully this information helps to clarify the role under eating or dieting plays in leading to these behaviors and helps motivate you to honor your hunger!