How To Not Eat When You Re Not Hungry – Intuitive eating teaches you to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re happy, but it’s much more nuanced than that! Learn why it’s good to eat when you’re not hungry in this post about the role of functional hunger in intuitive eating.
This post about Practical Hunger in Intuitive Dieting was published in April 2018. It has been updated to provide the best possible content. If you’re reading this the day it’s reposted (in April 2021) I’m not in Ohio, as the first line suggests 🙂 This is just a good example I wanted to keep!
How To Not Eat When You Re Not Hungry
Hello from Ohio! Today’s post about practical hunger in intuitive eating comes to you from Cleveland, where I visited a sponsored nutritionist tour.
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To get here yesterday had to wake up way too early at four in the morning to catch a flight from Columbia to Atlanta and then to Cleveland. The 4 a.m. wake-up call was made worse because I stayed up a little too late to pack and finish last-minute tasks. I arrived at the airport around 5, immediately boarded and took the one hour flight to Atlanta.
When I got to Atlanta, I wasn’t hungry. It usually takes about an hour after I wake up for my appetite to increase. When I woke up so early and went back to sleep, my body was completely off and the idea of eating felt quite uncomfortable.
Despite my lack of hunger, I knew I would eventually throw up, probably halfway through my 2 hour flight to Ohio. Since a small bag of 10 nuts isn’t exactly the breakfast of champions, I knew I needed to eat something, despite my stomach telling me it wasn’t time. I also knew once in Cleveland that I would meet other nutritionists and drive to the hotel and I didn’t know what the weather or the food situation would be like in Ohio. So, I grabbed a coffee and an overpriced sweet potato biscuit with maple turkey sausage, egg and cheese and ate it. Because I wasn’t hungry, I found the food rather unappealing… but so was the idea of hanging in the air on an empty stomach.
Hunger, one of the four types of hunger in intuitive food. Functional hunger is when you are not hungry at the moment, but you need to eat in response to an anticipated physical hunger that you may not be able to satisfy because food may not be available. Going to the bathroom before jumping into the car for a long drive is the equivalent of eating.
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Honor your hunger is one of the first rules of intuitive eating, but sometimes people interpret that as
Eat when you are hungry. It’s so easy to turn your diet thinking into an intuitive diet and turn guidelines into rules! And of course, it doesn’t help that there are plenty of people who are using intuitive language and principles for the purpose of selling intentional weight loss. Or, just as frustrating, explains intuitive eating in a simple way that defines it as eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full.
It’s totally fine to eat when you’re not hungry! Not only that, but it’s often a smart choice, because most of us don’t have free access to food 100% of the time. We have lives that aren’t about food, which means we can’t always just stop being hungry. Not honoring functional hunger means you’ll likely feel uncomfortable hunger at a time when you can’t eat, which affects mood, energy and digestion. Additionally, it is likely to lead to subsequent eating experiences that feel impulsive or out of control.
Some people worry that if they eat when they are hungry, this means they are eating “too much”. First, it is important to recognize that it is the thought of food and the fear of fat that feeds this anxiety. If it wasn’t there, a.) You probably wouldn’t have eaten out of hunger as often but more importantly b.) when you did it wouldn’t be so great. In general, hunger and satiety guide you in eating the right amount of food for you each day, but you don’t have to follow hunger and satiety to a T to fuel your body properly. Honoring functional hunger may mean that there are occasional days when you end up eating more food than usual, or more food than your body “needs”. Okay! I promise your body will know what to do with that energy.
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In general, if you know you’ll have access to food again in 1-3 hours, it’s probably smart to have a satisfying snack that includes at least a few different foods. Eating several foods together means you’re more likely to get an adequate mix of fat, carbohydrates and protein. Here are some examples:
If you think it will be more than 2-3+ hours before you get food again, you may want to eat a small meal, or just a regular ‘ole meal. Since you’re not hungry, you may want to focus on something that provides all of your nutrients in smaller amounts. And of course the comfort! Here are some examples:
In these cases, the main goal of eating is simply to feed your body. At other times, pleasure might be a higher priority, but in these situations you might think more about eating in practical terms—what will eliminate hunger, keep my blood sugar down, and what’s available. Not every meal has to be a gourmet dining experience, and that’s okay!
As with anything related to intuitive eating, it’s important to remember that anything you learn is a guide, not a hard and fast rule, so please don’t take these guidelines for granted. But hopefully it gives you a flexible structure the next time you need to eat when you’re not hungry. We are excited to share our new website with you! Take a look around and be sure to check out our latest programs. We can’t wait to help you reach your full potential!
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