Another main concept of Intuitive Eating is Principle Two Honor Your Hunger. Basically–eat when you are hungry and stop before you get too full. The definition of hungry in this sense means TRUE HUNGER or physiological hunger and not HEAD HUNGER. Head hunger is when you eat for external reasons like time, sight, smell, stress, or cravings. Individuals often make the mistake of letting themselves get too hungry, ravenous even, making it extremely difficult to stop eating before getting too full because the speed of eating increases and attention to your body’s satiety cues are neglected.
It is important to define FULL as well. Full in this definition is stopping when you feel satisfied BEFORE you feel stuffed. Consciously slowing your eating and periodically checking yourself for fullness will help you know when you have had enough. Remind yourself that the pleasure of more food now won’t outweigh the guilt, sense of failure and physical uncomfortableness which often comes with overeating. It is better to error on the side of not eating enough and be prepared to eat a snack later if you become hungry, rather than eating past fullness. Over time, you will be able to determine your hunger and satiety cues much easier and with less thought. It becomes almost automatic once you learn your body’s signals. Rather than feeling disappointed with overeating, you will feel empowered that you know when to stop eating and knowing that nothing is off limits. The Hunger/Satiety Scale used by Tribole and Resch is imperative in finding hunger and satiety cues that you once had when you were an infant and young child. KEY: the more true hunger is denied, the more intense the food cravings and obsessions. Denying true hunger leads to overeating and deafness to internal cues of hunger and satiety.
Discover the Satisfaction Factor is Principle Six, and will help you eat less food BUT feel MORE satisfied. Deriving pleasure and satisfaction from food is very important because the more satisfied you are when eating, the less you will think about food when you are not hungry. It is extremely important not to feel deprived; this is unique for everyone and takes trial and error to really determine your tastes—especially if you have been a chronic dieter. Eating bland, boring “diet” food will leave you feeling dissatisfied and you will constantly feel “on the prowl”, craving and searching for something. This usually looks something like this….
Maggie started her new diet one week ago and has eliminated all “junk food” and has cut down on fat. This is what her menu often looks like:
1 egg 3oz chicken breast
1 banana Plain salad (no dressing)
By 2pm she was craving something so she had a rice cake with a small amount of peanut butter. That didn’t satisfy her so she then had a cup of low-fat, low-salt popcorn. That still didn’t satisfy her so she ate the entire bag. She still had that prowling, craving feeling so went to the vending machine and bought a Snicker bar and bag of Doritos. Once she devoured those, she then finally felt full and started to feel a twinge of guilt. By this time it was about 5pm. She was not hungry for dinner so she skipped it and therefore felt justified in eating a heaping bowl of ice cream with hot-fudge right before bed.
Snack Dinner Bed-time Snack
1 rice cake with peanut butter NONE 5 cups of ice cream with hot-fudge
1 Bag low-salt; low fat popcorn
1 vending size bag of Doritos
Does this scenario sound familiar? However, if we go back and review, we can easily see what went wrong. First of all, her breakfast consisted of approximately 150 kcals and lunch approximately 250kcals so in addition to being very bland, it is low in Calories and fat which left her feeling hungry and on the prowl for something to satisfy her taste buds and physiological hunger. She tried to push down the hunger with the rice cake, then popcorn which also didn’t work. Finally giving into her cravings and overeating she skipped dinner and ended up eating “junk” food along the way.
Had she eaten a variety of flavors and more Calories by adding a whole grain bagel with cheese, tomato, and avocado to her breakfast, added feta cheese, almonds, dried cranberries and a modest amount of salad dressing to her salad, and chose a hearty snack of Greek yogurt with fresh fruit, chia or flax seed (or even just eaten a Snicker bar instead as a treat), she would have increased her Calories, fat, protein, and fiber. This would have prevented the out-of-control food fest at the end of the day. Of course the menu needs to be tweaked to the taste of the individual but it is possible to choose foods that are nutrient dense and taste amazing!
Again, if you are unsatisfied with what you are eating, you will likely eat more and always be on the prowl regardless of your level of fullness. This is why it is important to eat an appropriate amount of protein, fiber and fat so it stays in your stomach longer and to eat food that is not bland and boring. When you allow yourself pleasure and satisfaction from every possible eating experience, your total quantity of food will decrease, and you will automatically start choosing foods to fuel your body 90% of the time while allowing 10% of the time to eat your treat food (like a candy bar or ice cream sundae).
In summary, to make even a longer story, longer—the answer is YES—all foods can fit with balance and attunement by following the 90/10 rule which can be learned through intuitive eating practices. Remember, you don’t have to eat a “perfect” diet to be healthy. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters. Becoming an intuitive eater takes time, don’t expect to perfect this overnight or in a month or two, otherwise this would be called a DIET! This process may take longer than a fad diet (which doesn’t work in the end anyway) but is well worth the time to make peace with food and your body AND as a bonus your body and mind will be healthier too!
Blog Provided By:
Alison St. Germain
A Registered Dietitian with an MS in Nutrition and works with the Dietetic Internship Program at Iowa State University and is a certified Intuitive Eating Counselor.
Tribole E, Resch E. Intuitive Eating. A Revolutionary Program That Works. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press; 2012.