Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Part 6 What Do You Want to Eat?

Part 6 What Do You Want To Eat?: Based on the book "Intuitive Eating Workbook"

Unfortunately, for so many in our culture, the pleasure of eating promotes feelings of guilt and wrongdoing, and, of course, dieting plays right into this ethic. It causes you to make sacrifices and settle for less. But if you regularly settle for an unsatisfying food or an unappetizing eating experience, satisfaction will not be the outcome; rather, you are likely to continue searching for a satisfying food, even though you are no longer hungry. Fortunately, studies show that Epicurean eating pleasure—a concept that involves an ongoing appreciation of the aesthetics of foods, their symbolic value, and the pursuit of pleasure—is correlated with smaller portions and higher well-being, yet is not associated with higher body mass index. You will find that eating when you are moderately hungry, rather than ravenous or not hungry at all, will ensure more satisfaction. When you eat without a diet mentality, while making peace with food and challenging the food police, you’ll be free to discover satisfaction. You will receive more pleasure from a meal that is eaten without emotional turmoil. Respect for your body comes with an appreciation for the wonders of your body’s many capacities, including the enjoyment of food. Moving your body regularly and eating with an intention to feel good physically allows for far more satisfaction in life in general—and especially in eating. In order to feel satisfied when eating, the first question to ask is, “What do I really want to eat?” This may be difficult for you, if you have never been asked about what you liked or wanted to eat. Respect your taste buds’ preferences. You may have true life-long preferences or dislikes for certain tastes or foods, but it’s important to consider that your tastes may change over time. You may have gotten caught up in a rebellious food fight, thinking that you didn’t like certain foods, and be surprised to find that you now like them. As an Intuitive Eater, be committed to choosing the foods that you truly enjoy, without applying moralistic judgment. Remember, only you can know what pleases and satisfies your taste buds. Don’t settle—if you don’t love it, don’t eat it, and if you love it, savor it. What do I really want to eat right now? Consider each of your senses. Then think about the meal as a whole. You may not be able to satisfy each of your senses in every meal. That’s okay. Choose the components that are most important in the moment. In the field of hedonics—the study of pleasure—the concept of pleasantness is important in influencing food choice and may play a role in determining the amount of food consumed. This is called sensory specific satiety (SSS). Studies of SSS have found that it occurs within two minutes after consumption of a single food, when there’s been little opportunity for digestion and absorption, and it’s specific for the sensory aspects of the food. If you are eating mindfully, you will begin to notice when that moment of SSS sets in, for example, when your taste buds begin to be desensitized to the taste. At that moment, you might notice that it doesn’t taste as good as it did when you first bit into it. SSS encompasses the proposition that by evaluating the sensual qualities of food, which you identified in the preceding exercise, you can determine when the pleasantness of food decreases. With this focus, you’ll naturally come to just the right amount of food you need to give you the most satisfaction. Typically, we eat more than one food in a meal. As the pleasantness of a group of foods decreases, it often corresponds to an increase in satiety, leading to a decrease in hunger and desire to eat. Have you ever eaten very little during the day when you know that you’ll be going out to a lovely dinner in the evening? People do this all of the time, saving up for the meal without considering the consequences. It’s common to ignore the fact that going into a meal feeling ravenous is a sure route to gorging on as much food as you can to satisfy yourself. Once you’re in a state of primal hunger, all possibility of true satisfaction from your meal is removed by the drive to get the food in quickly. Likewise, it is just as hard to be satisfied from a meal if you sit down to eat when you have no noticeable hunger at all. You will get more pleasure out of a meal that’s begun when you’re moderately hungry. People frequently treat eating as they might treat washing their laundry—just going through the motions of a necessary but dull task, hardly paying attention—simply just getting through it. If you choose to eat your meals without regard to your environment, the satisfaction of eating can be diminished. Consider these possible issues: Time to Enjoy Eating. You may be eating rapidly and trying to squeeze your mealtime into a five-minute slot between jobs or chores. Or are you giving yourself plenty of time to appreciate your food? Distracted Eating. If you are standing up while eating, whether it be in front of the refrigerator, looking out the window, or racing around the house, you are missing the opportunity to sit, relax, look at your food on the plate, and take in its sensual qualities. If you are engaging in these activities while eating, it is unlikely that you can focus on your meal. People. Eating with someone else can often enhance your pleasurable experience, but it can sometimes distract you from your food. If you’re comparing what you’re eating with another’s meal, or you’re engaged in an uncomfortable conversation, it’s possible that you won’t notice whether the food is actually to your liking or whether you’re beginning to reach your last bite threshold. (Consider your companions at each meal. It may vary.) Clutter. If your eating space is cluttered, and there’s barely room to set down your plate, the mess can distract you, and you will not have a calm, satisfying eating experience. Setting. If you eat in an unattractive setting, you’re not honoring the experience of eating and not receiving the ultimate satisfaction that eating can offer. Noise. If you listen to loud, head-banging music, or there’s construction going on next door, or your coworkers are arguing or talking loudly at the next cubicle, you will feel the antithesis of a soothing environment. Stressful Emotions. If your emotions are intense, it’s difficult to feel calm enough to enjoy your meal. Most cultures, food is used to celebrate, to comfort, and to nurture family and friends. It’s no wonder that we learn to connect emotions and eating. When you add dieting to the mix, however, it wreaks emotional havoc: studies show that dieters have an increased risk of using food to cope with their emotions. It might be hard to believe, but each act of eating in your life has served you in some way, but some acts have caused you emotional distress and physical discomfort. On a basic level, eating offers nourishment, pleasure, and sometimes comfort. For some people, eating becomes a way of managing or escaping emotions—numbing your feelings. The manner in which you were raised can impact your ability to effectively cope with life’s ups and downs. If your parents or caregivers helped you develop positive coping skills, such as the ability to speak up, to show emotions, and to receive comfort from others, life’s challenges (and irritations) can more easily be met. On the other hand, if your parents were emotionally distant, abusive, or neglectful, or simply unable to cope with problems themselves, you may find yourself turning to destructive coping mechanisms, because you learned no other way to manage life’s challenges. When you throw dieting into the fray, you may find yourself catapulted into seeking solace in food, regardless of how you were raised.


Monday, January 23, 2023

Part 5 Mindful Eating

Part 5 Mindful Eating: Based on the book "Intuitive Eating Workbook"

It is difficult to identify fullness if you are eating while distracted, stuck in habitual patterns of cleaning your plate, or eating quickly without savoring your food. Eating while engaged in another activity is much like distracted driving—the driver has the illusion that he or she can drive just fine while texting. Distracted eating is no different. You might have the impression that you are aware of what you are putting in your mouth while reading the news or responding to email. But you are truly missing out on the sensory aspects of eating—the sound of the crunch of lettuce, the cool silkiness of the sour cream next to the thick richness of a bean chili, the scent of cinnamon wafting from your oatmeal, or the visual tapestry of a colorful pasta salad. Although you have the ability to multitask, your mind can truly pay attention to only one thing at a time, like a camera lens. Consequently, if you are preoccupied with doing other activities while eating, not only will your enjoyment of your meal be diminished but also it is likely that you will not sense your fullness until you discover that you are too full and that you ate more than you needed. Or you might discover that you feel full, but because you didn’t experience all the pleasures of your meal, you may still have a profound desire to continue eating to experience those joys. There are barriers to fullness, these include watching television or a movie, texting, reading a book, reading a magazine, surfing the Internet, reading or posting on social media, working at your desk, performing household chores, sorting through your mail, checking email or voicemail, checking your smartphone, playing digital games, creating to-do lists, reading the newspaper, reading the text on the cereal box, walking around, driving, talking on the phone, and making your kids’ lunches for school. Whether you eat alone or with other people, eating is a time to connect with your body and nourish it, especially in regular meals (though the satisfaction and comfort of having a snack should not be seen as inconsequential). If you are with family, friends, or coworkers, it’s also a time to connect with other people. But connection is difficult when there is unwanted distraction. It’s important to create as optimal an eating experience as possible: pleasant, relaxed, and free from distraction. There are two key ways to do this: by setting boundaries and by creating a pleasant environment. Finishing all the food on your plate, regardless of how much is served, is an externally based pattern of eating and a barrier to experiencing fullness, disconnecting you from your internal body cues. Instead, your stopping point is when your plate is empty, regardless of your initial hunger and subsequent fullness level. This type of eating is also common with packages of food—eating until completion, until the package is empty. The familiar parental rule from childhood evolves into a habitual pattern and even an expectation. Other factors can trigger finishing all the food on your plate, including being too hungry, eating too fast, or fear of deprivation. A strong habit like cleaning your plate or eating fast may be insensitive to fullness cues because it is so conditioned and ingrained. But when habit automaticity is disrupted, it’s easier for you to follow through with your intentions, such as leaving food on your plate when you become comfortably full. This next activity offers a novel way to disrupt the autopilot nature of these habits, which will enable you to savor the food and ultimately to be more connected to the physical sensations of emerging fullness: Eat with your nondominant hand. In social settings, it’s common for people to offer you more to eat. Sometimes a host is just being polite and accommodating, but some individuals gain self-worth from other people eating their food, especially if it is a special recipe. However, it’s important for you to honor your body. It is not your responsibility to make someone happy by eating more food at the expense of your body and comfort. Even if they ask you repeatedly, if you don’t want more to eat, you don’t need to change your answer. There are many ways people experience fullness. Here are some of the different ways that you might experience signs of fullness during and after a meal. Stomach: Many people experience a sensation of fullness in their stomach, ranging from a slight distention to heaviness and bloating. Head: Many experience fewer thoughts about food and eating. The desire to eat is diminished. Mood: Many feel a mood shift; they begin to feel pleasant or relaxed. Energy: Some people feel re-energized. Others, however, feel drowsy after eating. Some people stop eating when they suddenly feel uncomfortably full. This sudden onset of extreme fullness arises from not paying attention to the emerging sensations of fullness. These sensations are subtle and easy to miss if you do not check in with your body. For many people, this requires slowing down the process of eating. There are several factors that influence how much food it takes for you to experience comfortable fullness. Your Initial Hunger Level. If you start eating when you’re not hungry, there’s no compass for the contrast of fullness, because there’s no hunger to compare it to. Unconditional Permission to Eat with Attunement. If you have not made full peace with food, then stopping because of fullness may seem like a difficult proposition. It’s hard to stop eating if you believe you will never eat a particular food again. Timing. The amount of time that has passed since your last meal or snack will influence your fullness levels. To keep your energy and blood sugar in balance, you generally need to eat every two to six hours. Amount of Food. The amount of food that you ate at a prior meal or snack will influence when you become hungry and how much food it will take to reach comfortable fullness. Social Influence. Several studies have shown that the presence of people at a meal tends to increase the amount of food you eat. This may be due to distraction, peer pressure, or just simple unawareness. Type of Food. The kind of food you eat will influence not only your fullness level but also its staying power. For example, foods with a lot of bulk will make you feel full, but if they are also low in calories, such as vegetables or air-popped popcorn, they will not be satiating. Foods higher in fat, such as avocado, have more sustaining power. Some types of foods contribute to the feeling of comfortable fullness: Protein. The protein level in your meals or snacks helps to increase satiety levels. Foods high in protein include meats, beans, poultry, nuts, yogurt, and fish. Fats. Fats contribute to fullness in two ways. First, the presence of fat in a meal slows down the rate of digestion. Fat is also the slowest part of food to be digested. It plays a significant role in prolonging fullness. Foods high in fats include nuts, salad dressings, oils, butter, nut butters, full-fat dairy products, and avocados. Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates add bulk, which contributes to satiety. These foods also help to keep a normal blood sugar level, which is essential for providing energy to your cells. Foods high in carbohydrates include pasta, bread, rice, beans, and fruit. Fiber. Fiber is an indigestible type of carbohydrate, which adds bulk and slows the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream. It’s the reason a sandwich made with whole wheat bread may be a little more satisfying than one made with white bread, which has less fiber. These types of foods temporarily contribute to the feeling of fullness, but it is short-lived, because they are low-calorie foods. It’s the reason why, for example, you could eat a meal consisting of a big veggie salad with a tall glass of unsweetened iced tea, and truly feel full, but then end up hungry only an hour or two later. Or you may have experienced a confusing feeling when eating these foods—you feel physically full, yet still feel like you are missing something. You feel like you are on the prowl, still needing to eat. Individuals often describe it as a restless, food-seeking feeling—they are not satisfied. High Bulk, Low Calorie. These types of foods are generally vegetables and some fruits. “Air Foods.” These types of foods are usually familiar to dieters. Air foods fill up your stomach but offer little, if any, energy (calories). They are typically diet foods, such as rice cakes, puffed cereal, and sugar-free beverages. Artificially Sweetened Foods and Low Carbohydrate Foods. These foods tend to replace carbohydrates with sugar-alcohols and indigestible fibers. These replacements can make you feel temporarily full (and if eaten in excess, they can cause bloating and discomfort). This includes some energy bars, sugar-free gelatin, and low-carbohydrate desserts and snack foods. As you begin to become more familiar with the various sensations of fullness, you will be able to identify the last bite threshold, which is the endpoint of eating (for now). It’s a subtle experience. You become aware that just one more bite of food will likely be your stopping point for a comfortable satiety level. The key element in sensing this threshold is paying attention. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Part 4 The Food Police

 Part 4 The Food Police: Based on the book "Intuitive Eating Workbook"

Intuitive Eating involves a neutral, appreciative way of thinking. It’s filled with positive thoughts and gratitude. It’s based on the process of making change at one’s own pace. People who live with the diet mentality often have black-and-white thinking and see life in a linear way. They approach projects with the goal of going from A to Z in a straight line, rather than flowing with the ups and downs that come with any realistic goal in life. In the diet mentality, there is no room for deviation along the path. But life doesn’t work that way, and when the inevitable deviation occurs, the dieter’s rigid thinking leads to a sense of bewilderment and negative self-talk for not being able to stay on course. Negative beliefs and thinking impact your mental health. Make your motto “Come from a place of curiosity, not judgment”. The most common trap in which individuals get stuck is perfectionistic thinking. This premise must be reframed in order to remove negative self-talk. Whenever you attempt to do something every day or always, your goal is perfection. The problem with these goals is that the moment you don’t reach your perfectionist standard, you feel as if you’ve blown it. You might even feel shame that you can’t be true to your word. With this disappointment in yourself and the accompanying shame, you’re likely to give up on your goal entirely. One way of reframing your thinking is by adopting the phrase “for the most part.” When you set your goals, include a bit of flexibility: I’m going to exercise as often as it feels good, and when I’m too tired or don’t have time, I’ll rest. In other words, remember your commitment to consistent movement is going to be “for the most part.” As a result of diet thinking, you may have created many food rules, which are based on old beliefs. They may have accumulated over your lifetime. Many people say that a powerful source of these beliefs and rules was their upbringing or the dynamics of their family when they were children. Your family’s beliefs have a powerful influence on forming your belief system. Even if their intentions are entirely positive, many parents raise their kids with rules about what’s okay and not okay to eat. It’s important to get a sense of these rules from your childhood, their degree of rigidity, and how they might still be affecting you. Have family members, friends, or acquaintances made comments about your weight, shape, or what or how much you’re eating? If the person making this comment acts like a critical parent, it is likely that you will feel like a rebellious child, and your behavior may reflect these feelings. You often cannot control how others speak to you, even if you confront them about their criticism, but you can change how you speak to yourself. If you speak to yourself in a critical way, it is likely that you will respond with a rebellious voice, just as you would if someone else spoke to you in this way. You will find that as you speak to yourself more gently, you reduce your rebellious resorts. By noticing how you feel when you speak to yourself and when you respond to yourself or others, you will remove many of the barriers that have blocked you from connecting with the voice of your Intuitive Eater. It’s the voice of your autonomous Intuitive Eater—who knows the truth of your thoughts and feelings—that will lead you to a healthy relationship with food and your body. The Destructive Dieting Voices have a detrimental effect on your relationship with food and your body: The Food Police decides whether you’re being bad or good in relation to your food choices. It combines your dieting rules with your food rules. The Nutrition Informant aligns with the pervading cultural myths about which foods are healthy (not fattening) or unhealthy (fattening). The Diet Rebel makes rebellious comments that leave you feeling powerless in your ability to make autonomous decisions about your eating. The Powerful Ally Voices can aid and comfort you in your relationship with food and your body: The Food Anthropologist is a neutral observer who makes comments without judgment. The Nurturer is the loving, kind voice that provides the most positive self-talk. The Nutrition Ally has a neutral voice that helps you make decisions about foods that will give you energy, health, and satiety, along with satisfaction. The Intuitive Eater is the voice that will come from your internal wisdom and will guide you to make the best choice for your body’s needs.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Part 3 Dieting and Familiarity

Part 3 Dieting and Familiarity: Based on the book "Intuitive Eating Workbook"

In order to control their eating, chronic dieters abide by rigid rules that dictate what they can and cannot eat, with little regard to their experience of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction. Consequently, chronic dieters live in their heads and second-guess the needs of their bodies. After a while, interoceptive awareness (the ability to perceive physical sensations that arise from within the body) goes dormant. Dieters tend to evaluate their successes or failures of eating in terms of the current day. Success requires getting through the day with no violations of the diet. Even just thinking that you have blown your diet is enough to trigger the consumption of more food, regardless of hunger or fullness levels. Consequently, restrained eaters do not really end up eating less food overall. Researchers suggest that a high restraint eating score (meaning a high degree of restrained eating) seems to more accurately reflect eating-related guilt rather than actual food consumed. In the case of eating, habituation is the reason why leftovers become less appealing over time, even if it is your favorite food. The more you eat the same food, the less enticement it offers. It is just food. Sure, it still tastes good, but it becomes no big deal. Several studies have demonstrated the habituation effect with many different foods, including pizza, chocolate, and potato chips. The problem for chronic dieters is that forbidden-food rules prevent the habituation response. Instead, a vicious cycle ensues with each diet: the diet begins with food restriction, followed by broken restraint and the consumption of forbidden foods, which triggers feelings of guilt and a lack of control over eating those foods. That guilt and uncontrolled eating provide false evidence that more rules are needed to constrain the eating. There are many ways to make peace with food. But it goes more smoothly if we harness what we have learned from habituation research. For example, we know that novelty, variety, and distraction delay the habituation process. So it is helpful to eat without distraction and to choose the same food and same flavor before moving on to another food. For example, if you wanted to make peace with ice cream, it’s best to choose one flavor rather than buying a variety of flavors. Varying the flavor (or even the brand) extends the period of novelty—it’s almost like starting anew with each flavor, even though it’s the same kind of food. You will likely need to repeat this process several times—with the same food, as well as with different forbidden foods. Sometimes, of course, there are medical conditions that would cause some foods to be off-limits—such as a life threatening allergy to peanuts, or celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder that can only be treated by eating a gluten-free diet. Under these conditions, it is likely that you may feel a level of deprivation, as you are no longer free to eat certain foods without an adverse physical reaction. Remember, Intuitive Eating is about listening to all of the messages your body gives you and striving to feel good in your body as a result of your food choices. As you become an intuitive eater, your body will come to respond to foods that make it feel good, and so if you are in tune with your body, you will want those forbidden foods less. If you continue to have an emotional reaction, it is important to discuss this with your therapist and/or nutritionist. If you have less access to food as a result of financial limits, it is important to discuss your feelings, as well. We are all born into this world innocent, filled with instinct and emotions and the capacity to eventually form thoughts. In the realm of eating, this child lives in a nation—and, perhaps, a home—riddled with guilt about eating. Foods are often described in moralistic terms: decadent, sinful, tempting, or bad. This way of viewing food has become a false religion. Dieting has become the absolving ritual for removing the guilt of eating pleasurable foods. The key defense for challenging the food police is to first develop nonjudgmental awareness of your thoughts and then cultivate retorts to the food police’s judgments and demands. Learning to speak up is essential to your self-esteem. Beliefs are cultivated and influenced by many factors. For example, many people have a family history of living with a focus on weight and body size. A mother might comment on how her child looks and how the child’s clothing fits. A parent may use the scale daily and talk about dieting. A grandparent might make admonitions about how much food her grandchild is eating. There might be magazines in the home full of celebrity photographs that have been digitally altered to make their bodies look perfect. Your thoughts are formulated from the set of beliefs you hold about how the world around you works. The thoughts and rules spoken by the food police are usually cognitive distortions—very strong statements that are based on false beliefs. If not challenged, these negative thoughts can affect many of your behaviors, especially your eating. The first method is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT involves evaluating your thoughts and reframing them if they are faulty, which ultimately affects your behavior. The process begins with observing your thoughts and questioning whether a thought is reasonable. Is there any scientific evidence to support your thought? Or does it sound unjustifiable, unreasonable, and faulty? Once you have identified an unreasonable or illogical thought, challenge it by replacing it with a logical thought. Reflecting on your actual past experiences will help you evaluate whether your present thought has any truth or accuracy and whether it has actually resulted in any benefit to you. A second way you can challenge cognitive distortions or myths is by reframing them with facts. The second way to work with food police thoughts is a simple process of just observing your thoughts, without allowing them to occupy your mind and without passing any judgment on them. Simply observe them. This is a form of mindfulness called curious awareness. Our minds habitually take hold of a thought and build a narrative or story around it, which can create unnecessary suffering. A robust body of research shows that using curious awareness, through mindfulness-based meditation, can be incredibly beneficial to your mental health. There are many ways to practice doing this: Place your awareness on the present moment, rather than the thought. Pay attention to one of your senses, such as sight, touch, or sound. Simply label the thought as “thinking” or “mere thoughts, not facts.” Consider learning and developing a regular meditation practice. Just as beliefs inform your thoughts, your thoughts can have a powerful impact on your feelings. Let’s say that you realize that you’re feeling anxious. If you explore the thought that preceded that feeling, it might be, I ate too much today. By evaluating and challenging that thought, the ensuing feeling is likely to be more neutral or even positive. Here is a list of feelings that are often connected with eating and your body: anxiety, sadness, fear, disappointment, remorse, envy, anger, and shame. Don’t forget: beliefs create thoughts, which affect feelings and then behavior.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Part 2 Dieting and Hunger

Part 2 Dieting and Hunger: Based on the book "Intuitive Eating Workbook"

There is a huge cost to the pursuit of dieting, beyond financial. Dieting can cause a lot of harm to your behavioral and mental health, as well as your social, relationship, and physical health. Take inventory of how dieting has interfered with your life. Physical symptoms include weight gain, blunted metabolism, excessive cravings for carbs, blood sugar swings, disconnected from hunger cues, disconnected from satiety cues, chronically tired, even when sleeping well, hair loss (more than usual), if female: missed or inconsistent menses, and physical numbness. Social symptoms can include eating differently when others are present, comparing food to what others are eating, in quantity and type of foods,  worrying about what people think about my eating, worrying about what people think about my body, trying to eat the same type and quantity of food that others are eating, canceling social events because of the food or meals served, avoiding eating in social situations, and behavior and beliefs about eating and body image have interfered with relationships. Psychological symptoms include worrying about my eating, having strict rules about eating, counting calories, carbs, or other factors about food, thinking of foods as “good” or “bad,” feeling guilty if I eat a “bad” food, having mood swings, afraid of feeling hungry, afraid of feeling too full, distrusting my body, afraid that if I start eating “forbidden” foods, I won’t stop eating, and fantasizing about food and am preoccupied by thoughts about what I eat and don’t eat. Behavioral symptoms include if I break a food rule, I eat even more of it, If I eat too much, I make up for it by skipping a meal or eating less food at the next meal, even if I am hungry, eating more food when I’m stressed, only exercising to burn calories or lose weight, talk a lot about dieting, weight, and food, when on vacation, ignoring my food rules and eat more than I need, no matter how full I feel, engaging in binge eating, and avoiding physical intimacy. When you embark on diet after diet, it leads to weight fluctuations, which researchers call weight cycling. Weight cycling itself takes a toll on your physical and mental health. Research over the past twenty-five years has shown that weight cycling is inextricably linked to adverse physical health and psychological well-being. Weighing, measuring, and counting are external tools of dieting. And so is collecting dieting books and articles. As you begin to practice the principles of Intuitive Eating, these thoughts and behaviors will fade into the background and eventually disappear. Whenever you’re feeling bad about what you ate, reflect on what you’ve just said to yourself—there’s a good chance it was some form of dieting mentality. For now, simply labeling these types of thoughts as “diet mentality” is a great step. Because paying attention—without judgment—is needed for meaningful change to take place. This is a characteristic of compassion, which plays an important role in the journey of becoming an Intuitive Eater. Hunger is a natural biological cue that lets you know that your body needs sustenance. Nourishing your body is as essential to life as is breathing. Honoring your hunger is an important part of Intuitive Eating. Chronic dieters often deny their biological hunger, only to have it backlash. Their hunger increases and sets off a biological cascade, both physically and psychologically—“primal hunger,” an urgent and intense desire to eat—which often results in overeating. Primal hunger is a state that occurs when biological hunger has gone unanswered for far too long. The term hunger technically refers to the biological need to eat, but it often is used to describe the mere desire to eat (without the presence of hunger cues). We use the description of biological hunger as a point of clarity, which refers to the cues originating from your body saying it needs nourishment. Many individuals view hunger as the enemy—something to fight off or ignore, or something to be tricked. When experiencing biological hunger, the mind of a chronic dieter will habitually say Don’t, It’s not time to eat, or You can’t be hungry yet. But ignoring hunger and employing trickery—such as drinking water or eating “air food”—makes the process of eating confusing to the body. Air foods are foods that provide volume with little substance or energy, like rice cakes or sugar-free gelatin. Perceiving the physical sensations that arise from within your body is called interoceptive awareness or interoception. Interoceptive awareness is a powerful and innate ability, which includes perceiving the physical cues of hunger and satiety, bodily states such as a rapid heartbeat and a full bladder, and the physical sensations produced by emotions, like the rush of heat and jitteriness you feel when you panic. This is the direct experience of your physical body. Being attuned to these sensations gives you powerful information into your physiological and psychological state, which can help determine what you need to do in order to meet your needs. Paying attention to your body’s physical sensations on a regular basis will help you learn to hear your hunger sensations. Listening to different body sensations is a form of cross-training for body cue awareness. Please keep in mind that these body sensations are not “right” or “wrong”—they are just information. An attunement disrupter is anything that interferes with your ability to hear and respond to the needs of your body in a timely manner. Disrupters include distractions, thoughts, rules, beliefs, and a lack of self-care. When you are in times of stress, whether it’s fighting deadlines or chasing toddlers in diapers, your body’s biological fight-or-flight survival system is activated. Your blood flow is diverted away from your digestive system and shunted to your extremities to help you flee or fight the enemy—resulting in a lack of hunger cues. Self-care is defined as the daily process of attending to your basic physical and emotional needs, which include the shaping of your daily routine, relationships, and environment, as needed to promote self-care. It includes a broad range of activities, such as getting enough sleep and attending to emotional, physical, relationship, and spiritual needs. When your body is hungry, it tries to get your attention in a variety of ways, from mood and energy changes to increased thoughts about food. The longer you wait to nourish your body, the more intense these experiences will be. Getting to know your hunger cues might seem frustrating, especially if you have not experienced hunger in a long time—perhaps because you’ve been numb from stress or perhaps you don’t let yourself get hungry at all. The more you listen to your body, the more you will begin to hear and experience the subtler signs of hunger. Keep in mind that everyone is different, and there is no right or wrong way to experience hunger. Stomach: A variety of sensations including rumbling, gurgling, gnawing, or emptiness. While this is a common way of experiencing hunger, there are many people who do not experience hunger signs in their stomach. Throat and esophagus: Dull ache, gnawing. Head: Cloudy thinking, light-headedness, headache, difficulty focusing and concentrating. Experiencing more thoughts about food and eating. Mood: Irritability or crankiness. Perhaps you have to work harder to refrain from snapping, even though you don’t present as irritable to the outside world. Energy: Waning, perhaps even to the point of sleepiness. There can be a dullness and even apathy toward doing anything. Numbness: Overall lethargy. If you are under chronic stress or have an illness, you really can’t rely on hunger cues to adequately nourish your body. This can also be the case if you are an athlete undergoing intense training—hunger is temporarily blunted for a couple of hours. These conditions are usually temporary, but your body still needs nourishment. Similarly, if you do not experience hunger cues, you will need to call upon your rational thought to keep yourself nourished. (Remember, Intuitive Eating is a dynamic interplay of instinct, emotion, and rational thought.) This might seem like it goes against the Intuitive Eating protocol of listening to your body, but in situations where your hunger cues are offline, it is really a type of self-care in the form of nourishment. Sometimes there is confusion about whether or not to eat, because thoughts may interfere with the direct experience of hunger cues from your body. Here’s a common scenario we hear over and over again: Let’s say you ate breakfast at seven this morning. Yet just one hour later, at eight, you are clearly biologically hungry. Your stomach is gnawing and growling. You feel empty and have a desire to eat. But your first thought is, I can’t be hungry, I just ate. And then you try to distract yourself from your hunger and wait it out until lunch. It’s understandable to feel puzzled or even annoyed that you are experiencing hunger so soon after eating a meal. Yet there are a number of reasons why your body might simply need more nourishment: The day before, you had an unusually higher level of physical activity. You ate markedly less the day before. Your breakfast at seven might, in actuality, have been more of a snack than a meal. You are just having a hungrier day. You worked out early that morning, so your hunger was somewhat blunted when you sat down for breakfast, and you didn’t eat enough. You have a physical condition, such as being premenstrual, which is making you hungrier than usual. Every time you experience biological hunger and you respond by honoring that hunger with nourishment, you build trust and connection with your body. Every time you honor hunger because your here-and-now body is hungry, you will get clarity, not confusion. You can’t make peace with your eating by declaring a war on your body or the foods you put into it. Forbidding yourself specific foods can have a paradoxical rebound effect that triggers overeating. You have already seen how biological deprivation (hunger) can lead to overeating. But there’s also another powerful factor at play—the psychological effects of deprivation—which uncannily fuels obsessive thinking about food, ultimately leading to overeating and disconnection from your body. Making peace with food is a critical component of Intuitive Eating, which involves eating the food you desire with attunement to your hunger and fullness levels. It is the process of making your food choices emotionally equal, without placing shame or judgment on them, whether you are eating green jelly beans or a piece of broccoli. Your dignity remains intact, regardless of your food choices. You are not a bad or good person based on what you eat. Permission to eat is to quell the deprivation backlash, which builds with each new diet you try, with yet another food foisted onto the do-not-eat list. Ultimately, this principle is about valuing your emotional health and taking morality out of your eating, all while increasing the flexibility of your food choices.