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How’s Your Appetite Track?

  • Eating

Eating intuitively means keeping track of your appetite just as you sense other bodily functions. If I were to ask you any time during the day or night “Are you sleepy?,” my guess is that you’d be able to answer me without thinking much about it. Ditto if I were to inquire whether you felt warm or cold, high or low energy. At least one would hope you’d be able to give me a response fairly easily.

This is because our bodies are built to track these kinds of physiological functions. How else would we survive? We need to be exquisitely in tune with our body’s needs or we would perish. Our need for food is one of those necessities.

The way I think of appetite is that we are consciously or unconsciously tracking it all the time. For example, if I asked you right now what your hunger level is on a scale of 1 to 10, you might need a moment to stop and think, but you’d probably come up with a pretty accurate answer. Of course, you don’t want to have to stop and think about your hunger level all the time because it would consume too much mental energy and there are so many other factors to pay attention to in order to keep you safe and sound.

That’s where appetite cues come in—when you’re in the midst of doing housework or homework and you suddenly get a pang of hunger or you’re enjoying a pint of Talenti Salted Caramel Truffle (my favorite) and your body signals that it doesn’t taste as great as your first few bites so it’s time to stop eating. In these instances, innate appetite cues are informing you how you’re feeling about food. These signals intrude into the moment no matter what you’re doing. Inborn, they’re meant to be informational and helpful.

Like a track of music playing in the background, appetite cues are there if you seek out their message, even when they don’t jump out and blast it at you. If you ask, they’ll give you the answer of whether you’re hungry or full or satisfied. But that means taking time to seek out their wisdom and waiting to hear the answer. Let’s face it, you may not always want to hear what these cues have to say, especially when you’re enjoying food.

Start practicing functioning on two tracks, letting your appetite (track 1) come to the fore and recede while you’re living life (track 2). It’s useful to hear what cues have to say when they interrupt the flow of whatever you’re doing and also helpful as a resource when you want to know whether it’s time to eat, what to eat or when to stop. Just because you’re deeply engrossed in a who-done-it or lost in reminiscing with old friends doesn’t mean appetite signals aren’t doing their notification job or that you can’t stop and listen to what they have to say about where you’re at with food.