Resisting hunger does more harm than good to your body, both physically and mentally. Don’t punish yourself for your body’s innate need for nourishment and energy.
There’s a common theme when the topic of hunger comes up: we tend to resist our hunger.
And with that resistance comes judgement, telling people that they shouldn’t be hungry. And out of that judgement can come frustration and shame, as if hunger is some pathological problem that shouldn’t be happening in our bodies.
Let’s be real: the only way to make physiological hunger go away is to eat.
Not to chug water, make a cup of coffee, or distract yourself. Only eating will satisfy hunger, and eating means calories. And in a calorie-obsessed world, ingesting calories (which is simply a form of energy that our body requires to sustain life) has somehow become a fear-based behavior. A normal, necessary, behavior – just like breathing in oxygen – has been twisted into something we no longer do intuitively, but rather with obsession, great attention, and even resistance.
But it’s not really all our fault for these judgmental thoughts and shameful feelings around hunger. If we aren’t actively disengaging from diet mentality, we all become consumed by it anyway. After all, non-diet talk and thinking is not the norm. We live in a world absolutely consumed by diet and exercise, in which thin and skinny are associated with worth and beauty. But it is slowly changing, and while we are seeing a shift towards body acceptance in our society,
We are not quite there yet.
Hunger is not something to suppress or associate with shame or judgement. By shifting from judgement to curiosity around hunger, it opens up a whole new opportunity of discovery.
In fact, hunger is a good thing because it’s actually a sign of healthy hormonal function, and regular hunger is a firm indication of metabolic efficiency. Waking up and becoming hungry soon after is awesome.
Hunger tells us our body is burning through what we’re eating and utilizing that for energy.
It tells us our hunger hormone, ghrelin is working rather than being suppressed. Even more more so, feeling hungry throughout the day is great both hormonally and metabolically too. Having an appetite and consistent hunger should be something we are excited about. If hunger is our body telling us to eat and food is one of life’s pleasures, shouldn’t we be embracing hunger?
Let’s break down what our hunger hormones are:
You have two primary appetite hormones, ghrelin and leptin. Experiencing regular hunger and fullness means ghrelin and leptin are in sync. If we take emotions out of hunger and fullness and strip down to just the physiology, these hormones signal that your body has burned the energy you last put in and now your body needs more energy.
Simple as that.
If you never feel hungry, that’s something to look into. Are there hormonal and metabolic factors contributing to that? Are there areas of intuitive eating that could be explored?
But what happens if you try to ignore hunger?
With ignored hunger, ghrelin continues to increase over time. If you continue ignoring that hunger, your body now goes into energy conservation mode because it’s not getting the energy it needs – it disrupts your body and now it must compensate. When this happens over time, it’s harder for our bodies to settle into their set point weight. In a diet-riddled world, the following cascade of events occur:
Ignore/suppress hunger >> Ghrelin levels rise >> Ignore/suppress hunger >> Stress hormones rise because of assumed starvation >> body compensates by conserving energy >> Frustration
This happens because:
- You’re eating less and not achieving your goal of losing weight (which isn’t a healthy goal to begin with),
- Even more frustrating, weight gain occurs from elevated stress hormones (which isn’t a crisis, it’s just your body communicating to you).
But what if we realize our bodies are amazing at burning through energy and maintaining our unique healthy set point, if we simply give it the tools to do so?
That means giving it enough nourishing food.
There is a freedom that comes with embracing your hunger, and an “a-ha” moment when you realize the metabolic capacity of your body. The human body has a high metabolic potential if we are eating intuitively, nourishing our bodies with all of the essential nutrients that it needs, and not fighting our genetic set point.
With all that in mind, our bodies can and will burn through anything we put in it without us micromanaging our hunger and body size. Remember, your identity is not found in how little food you need to consume to feel full. And your worth is not found in how much or how little space you take up. Being hungry or ravenous is not something to be ashamed about, and it certainly isn’t something we should ignore in an effort to lose those last damn five pounds. Because it’s an unfulfilling pursuit.
Even more importantly, it’s never about your weight: it goes deeper than that. Your body can manage its weight and size as long as you have self-compassion and take care of yourself.
And that includes both rest and movement, and both cupcakes and kale.
Adapted from the original article.
Robyn Nohling, FNP-BC, RD is a Registered Dietitian and Family Nurse Practitioner who believes that eating cupcakes and kale are both equally healthy to the body and mind. With a passion for women’s hormonal health and nutrition, Robyn cuts through the irrational noise of diet fads and unrealistic beauty expectations to help others find joy in food as it’s meant to be celebrated. Learn more about Robyn at The Real Life RD.