“Eat when you’re hungry & stop when you’re full”. This advice is often easier said that done! When we’re children, we eat when we’re hungry, and stop when we’re full. There’s little external factors that alter us from using our bodies intuition to make decisions about food. So why is it so tough to do this now as an adult?

There are a bunch of things that can alter our perception of hunger/fullness cues as adults.  Often, these things have more to do with our emotions and little to do with our actual physical responses to hunger and fullness.

Emotional and/or situational effects on food choices:

  • Emotions (either both good or bad)
  • Behavioral/Dieting: Ignoring true hunger, eating past fullness
  • Events/Social Pressure: Special occasions/celebrations (i.e birthdays, holidays, work event)
  • Environmental: Traveling, Office treats, Going home to parents house

Do any of these emotions or situations resonate with you when it comes to the topic of feeling your hunger/fullness? If so, continue to read below for some helpful strategies about how to increase awareness and become more in-tune with your body.

How do you know when you’re hungry?

Think of the last time you felt *truly* hungry. What symptoms come up for you?

Do you feel pangs? Have a headache? Tired? Irritable? Take note of such feelings when they present themselves. Additionally, keep in mind that hunger sensations may feel different for each of us.

Rate your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10 (using the chart above can be a great place to start!). Are you at a 5? If so, it might be time for a snack or meal! If it’s a 5 or lower, ask yourself what your body is trying to tell you.

Keep in mind being thirsty, bored or lonely can sometimes be confused with hunger. This is why it is crucial to take into account your current environment/emotional state and hydration status as well.

Next, it can also be helpful to recognize how long it takes between meals and snacks to feel at or above a Level 6 on the hunger scale. You may want to note how different foods/food combinations.

Feeling your fullness

Looking at the hunger/fullness scale again we can see that anywhere between a 6 to an 8 is satisfied or full. It can take time to learn what feels like a comfortable feeling of fullness for us. Additionally, keep in mind we are human and sometimes we will get past the point of fullness. Instead of beating yourself up in these moments it can be more productive to get curious and see what you can learn about yourself in these scenarios.

Additionally, a key component to feeling your fullness, is to slow it down and eat more mindfully. An easy way to do this is aim to make the meal a single event and limit multi-tasking (i.e limit watching TV or scrolling through your phone).

Remember, to give yourself some grace when making these changes and to focus on progress, not perfection. A big part of mindful eating is tuning into your habits without judgment or criticism, but instead curiosity. It takes time to re-learn your hunger and fullness cues if it’s been a while since you last felt in touch with them.