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  • Lisa Kelly

How to Eat When You're Actually Hungry

Last week’s blog post showed you how eating slowly can be a positive and easy change. Eating slowly might seem simple, but many people still struggle with it. To combat that, I gave you two small action items you could practice:

1. Take a pause halfway through your meal

2. Put your fork down between bites

Today’s post will cover another tip!

Tip #2: Eat When You Are Actually Hungry

If we get really honest, there are a lot of us who really couldn’t tell when we’re hungry. As adults, we get in the habit of snacking unconsciously, auto eating at certain meal times or eating early to avoid hunger later. Not to mention, many of us eat in hurried, distracted ways.

Many of our eating habits seem to just… happen.

And if you’ve been on and off diets throughout your life, you may be even more out of touch with your hunger cues!

Those of us who’ve restricted food or experienced food scarcity can find that hunger brings up feelings of deprivation and uncertainty. In these cases, you may do everything you can to avoid being hungry — making sure you have ample snacks with you at all times (guilty!).

But…..Hunger is a helpful sensation from your body designed to keep you nourished. It’s like the little warning light on your dashboard that turns on when your fuel tank is low. It’s a sign that you need to get more gas soon — but you probably still have another 20 miles in the tank.

If you’re frequently eating when you’re not actually hungry, you may be in an energy surplus. In other words, you’re eating more calories than your body needs, which can lead to unintended weight gain.

In theory, waiting to eat until you are hungry sounds pretty easy, but in my experiences of coaching clients, I’ve seen that it can be tricky in practice. The main reason seems to be that most of us don’t know the difference between hunger and appetite.

Hunger: signals the physiological need for food. It is often described as an empty, hollow feeling in the belly, though you may also struggle to focus or notice a dip in energy.

Appetite: is a psychological want for food. It usually is driven by a craving, emotions or stimulated by smelling food.

Appetite is tricky because it can show up out of no where. Especially when we are:

o Stressed and looking for comfort or distraction

o Procrastinating

o Celebrating

o Engaging in social activities

Everyone occasionally eats because of appetite, and that’s totally cool.

Food is also meant to be enjoyed. Eating just because you want to is a perfectly valid choice, however the key is to recognize the difference.

To help you recognize the difference, let’s go over action items you can put into practice!

Strategy #1 Name it Hunger or Appetite

Next time, before you eat, see if you can name it one or the other by asking yourself questions like:

o “Would I eat protein and veggies if that were all there was available to me?”

o “Is my stomach growling or feeling hollow and empty?

o “Has it been more than three or four hours since I last ate?”

All you need to do for right now is name it: hunger or appetite. That name may or may not change what you do next.

Strategy #2 Wait Until You’re Hungry

Level up from the strategy above, by actually waiting until you name it hunger before eating.

If you’re unsure if you’re hungry, consider finding something else to do for 15–30 minutes, and then re-evaluate whether or not you need to eat.

Luckily, every meal and snack is an opportunity! Over time, you’ll get better at knowing when you’re truly hungry versus when you’re feeling appetite. And you’ll be better able to make choices that align with your needs and goals.

Want to create real change? Reach out today!


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