When relying on hunger is too scary

Does the idea of relying on your hunger and fullness cues freak you out? Seem waaaay too scary? Please hang on. This post is for you. And, be sure to know you are not alone.

I can’t stop thinking about food!

Attuned eating is letting go of distractions and relying on your hunger, fullness, and satiety cues to guide eating. Some people also call it Intuitive Eating. If your brain thinks about food, eating, and their rules most of the day, attuned eating will feel a bit premature. We often call this way of thinking food preoccupation. I see it as food rules have taken your brain hostage. The way out of this crisis is to retrain your brain to not think about food. All. The. Time.

Before you look into brain surgeons, know we have tools outside of the operating room. And, all you need to do the work includes a way to know time (either your watch, cell phone, or the sun), a shelf stable snack of your choice, and patience. Bring lots of patience.

Disconnecting from hunger makes us think more about food

We get disconnected from our hunger cues because our brains have been distracted by food rules, not prioritizing self care, and emotional dysregulation. If you are disconnected from hunger, there was a time when you were not. There was a time when your body consistently provided the information you needed to eat adequately. Diets and other means to learn food rules disconnected you. So does a chaotic life with little self care. If you are running around like a chicken with a head cut off, then you are not stopping to eat when hungry nor pee when need to pee. (That’s for all my nurses and teachers…talking to you!)

You also get disconnected if you are used to feeling certain emotions and reaching for food. Emotional eating is a touchy word in my book because everyone emotionally eats. It is human and part of cultural connections. And healthy. What I am talking about though is when a person feels an emotion, whether uncomfortable or warm fuzzy, and the brain automatically feels satisfaction with certain foods. I like to call this symbolic hunger discussed in another post.

How do we rewire our noggins?

Diets, lack of self care, and emotional dysregulation can all disconnect your hunger and make your brain over think about food. To retrain your brain, practice these steps over the next 2 to 4 weeks:

Pick your check in times.

What time do you wake up? Now set an alarm on your phone for every three hours after this time throughout the whole day. If you don’t use a smartphone, pencil it in your calendar. These times are your check in times.

Go through the check in routine.

Within the first hour of being awake and every check in time, go through this routine: take 3 deep breathes and ask yourself: “What do I need right now?” By what do I need I am referring to anything. If nothing surfaces ask these:

Do I need to pee?

What am I feeling?

Am I hot or cold?

Do I want or need to eat?

What to do about food at check in times?

At each check in time, give yourself permission to eat outside of physical hunger. If you are not feeling hunger cues, you need to eat at some point (hello, you are human!). By doing this, you will reset your circadian eating rhythms which will gradually reset your hunger cues to be consistently noticeable.

What to do about food outside of check in times?

When craving to eat or binge outside of check in times practice gently saying: “I am craving food right now. It is symbolic hunger. I can have as much as I want or need at the next check in time.” If you find yourself not able to wait, please forgive yourself and move on. Those who are successful at this part of the process are folks who keep trying. So dust yourself off and look to the next check in time. It will get easier after more practice.

What to expect

Practice these check in times over the next 2 to 4 weeks. Remember to be extra kind to yourself and forgive when making mistakes. Everyone does during this process. After a few weeks, your brain will start to get used to a rhythm from the check in times and eating times. More space will occur outside of eating and hunger cues will begin to percolate to the surface. And when they do, welcome them home. Let hunger know you won’t be ignoring it anymore rather wanting to get to know its purpose.

Let me know when you start to experience the hunger cues coming back. It is an exciting reuniting process!

The #FoodPeaceChallenge gathers people and professionals rejecting diets. We want to make 2015 diet free! If you are new to the challenge, welcome and find the Manifesto here. Find community support using #FoodPeaceChallenge on Twitter or leave a message in comments.