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Honor Your Hunger

When we are considering nutrition, we often think about diets and/or developing a specific meal plan for eating. These diets and meal plans often have explicit rules on what to eat and when to eat. Unfortunately, they don’t usually take into consideration our unique experience of hunger. They don’t encourage us to develop awareness of our internal hunger cues which are often attached to a variety of physical and emotional needs. We experience many different types of hunger at different times in any given day. Here are a few examples:

Biological hunger is the physical need for food (time for next meal or snack)

Taste hunger is the desire to eat food for pleasure (ice cream cone on a hot summer day)

Emotional hunger is the desire to eat food to comfort emotions (favorite food after a stressful day)

Practical hunger is planful eating when anticipating limited access to food (eating a snack before going into a work meeting)

The most important thing is to HONOR YOUR HUNGER. There are many reasons we choose to eat and all are valid; eating for reasons other than biological hunger — e.g., having dessert after dinner for “taste hunger” — is perfectly fine and nothing to feel guilty about.

If you are biologically hungry you should eat! Think about what would taste good based on what’s available and eat! Signs of biological hunger include: empty stomach, stomach pangs or gurgling, lightheadedness, dizziness, shakiness, inability to concentrate, and irritability. Often when we are busy we ignore our biological hunger cues, skip meals, and in essence restrict our food intake. Developing awareness of our hunger cues and then honoring them by eating when we are biologically hungry is extremely important to align with the body’s natural digestive rhythms.

Sometimes we choose to eat for reasons other than biological hunger. And this is perfectly fine. Food is part of sharing community with family and friends. It can be pleasurable and satisfying, and it can be a way to take care of ourselves during difficult times. Consider the following next time you have a desire to eat: take a few deep breathes to become present and aware in the moment and then check in and ask yourself:

Am I hungry?

If yes, this is biological hunger (see signs of biological hunger above). Eat the type of food you want based on what’s available.

Do you want to eat because the food looks good and/or is available?

It is also perfectly acceptable to honor our hunger when we choose to eat for pleasure or convenience. Perhaps you are at a social event, or there are freshly baked chocolate chip cookies on the counter, or you know you won’t be able to eat lunch at the usual time. When we choose to eat in these situations we are honoring our taste and practical hunger.

Are you feeling an emotion that has triggered your desire to eat?

Try to figure out what emotions are creating your desire to eat. Are you feeling: anxiety, boredom, excitement, frustration, sadness, anger, stress, celebratory, overwhelmed? Choose a self-care activity (which may include eating) to help soothe your emotions with kindness, gentleness, and without self-judgement.

Choose self-care activities that you enjoy and make you feel good (and remember this may include eating!). Your list of self-care activities are unique to you, may be ever changing, and may be different per situation or day. You may choose more than one self-care activity at a time (e.g., eat a cookie then take a walk, or cuddle with a pet while talking with a supportive friend/family member).

Other self-care activities include but are not limited to:

+ Get out in nature, step outside the house, or go for a walk

+ Call or text a supportive friend or family member

+ Mindfully enjoy a favorite food or a comfort food

+ Cuddle with a pet

+ Listen to music

+ Meditate or try a breathing exercise

+ Gentle body movement – stretching or yoga

+ Take a hot shower or bath

+ Journaling

+ Take a nap

+ Gardening

+ Create art

+ Engage in a favorite hobby

+ And remember it is always ok to eat!

Being aware of your internal hunger cues, checking in and honoring them is so important to establishing an enjoyable relationship with food. It is possible to make peace with food and receive pleasure and satisfaction along with meeting your nutrient needs.

I offer a trauma-informed non-diet approach paired with intuitive eating and mindfulness. I would love to work with you to explore your relationship with food and begin the process of developing a non-restrictive way of eating that is enjoyable and feels good.


The information contained within this blog, website, and related content (such as Instagram posts) are of a general nature. They are not intended to treat, diagnose, or give specific medical advice. While all content is written by a registered dietitian and/or licensed massage therapist and strive to provide only accurate, scientific-based information, your specific health needs may or may not apply to the content contained on this website and related content. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any specific medical condition. (All content is copyrighted, and must be used only with permission and citation to Neither Joy Valvano, RDN or Dani Oliver, LMT or Evolve Wellness Center LLC shall be liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, consequential, or other damages which may result from the information and content.

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