Intuitive Eating Principle 2

November 9, 2020
| Created by Megan GuynnMegan Guynn

Honoring Your Hunger

Babies are some seriously good intuitive eaters. If you’ve been around a baby before, you know that they are very good at communicating their hunger—they cry when they need some food, and turn their head away when they are satisfied. Unfortunately, this concept of “eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full” isn’t as simple for us adults. External influences like diet culture, media, friends, medications, and emotions have distorted hunger cues for many of us. But have no fear, it is completely possible to get back in touch with what your body is telling you. This post will provide some ideas for how to achieve principle 2 of intuitive eating: honoring your hunger. Check out my last post if you missed principle 1.

Simply put, honoring your hunger is keeping “your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates” ( An important step in honoring your hunger is to recognize that hunger is not something we should avoid or be ashamed of. Feeling hungry is an incredible physiological response—it’s how our bodies communicate we need more energy to stay alive. Ignoring hunger cues can leave us in an extremely starved state, where we forgo all chances of moderate and conscious behaviors and are left with the extremes like binging and mindless eating.

Important to honoring hunger, is recognizing hunger. All bodies are different, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that there are multiple ways people can feel hunger. Try to recall the last time you felt hungry—maybe that’s right now, maybe a few hours ago. How did you know you were hungry? Here are a few signs of hunger to get you thinking:

  • Stomach growling/rumbling
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pains
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Preoccupation with food

If you’re not really sure how you feel hungry, it’s time to pay attention. I challenge you to tune in to your body from now until your next meal. What does your body feel like every hour leading up to your next meal? How does that time affect your energy, mood, mental state, or stomach? What does your body feel like?

Now feeling hunger isn’t always so simple. There are things other than low energy that can affect hunger:

  • Medications
  • Health conditions
  • Substance abuse
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Long-term dieting
  • Extreme calorie restriction

These barriers to physiological hunger are important to recognize, so we can overcome them. I would encourage you to reach out to your health care provider for help regarding your individual barrier. Or, email us at if you’d like to be pointed in the right direction.

One tool used to honor hunger is something called the hunger scale. Assigning a numerical value to feelings can be helpful for some. The image below shows 1 as being ravenous, and 10 being so stuffed you never want to think about food again. Try keeping yourself around 3-7 to avoid extreme hunger and therefore triggering overeating, and to avoid feeling uncomfortably full from eating in excess.

Now for some real talk:

It’s not always practical to eat when you’re feeling hungry, and stop when you’re feeling full. Sometimes it’s the right decision to eat even though you don’t feel very hungry, because you know this will be your only opportunity to eat all day. Packing your lunch and snacks before you leave in the morning is another example—you’re thinking ahead to when you know you will likely be hungry. Practical hunger is an important consideration throughout this process.

Learning, or relearning, your body’s hunger cues can take time, but practice makes perfect! Practice connecting with your body’s signals to develop a better relationship with food. If you have questions, or would like to sign up for nutrition counseling, email

Other parts of this series on the Principles of Intuitive Eating:

Part One     Part Two     Part Three     Part Four     Part Five      Part Six