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Ignoring Hunger

  • Eating

One of the worst things you can do that ensures you won’t become a “normal” eater is to regularly ignore hunger signals. People who skip meals when they’re hungry only cause and reinforce appetite dysregulation. Frequently avoiding food when your tummy is empty is like refusing to put gas into your car and continuing to drive—eventually you’re going to run into trouble. There are several unhealthy reasons dysregulated eaters use for not eating when they’re hungry.

First is that they have no time to eat. C’mon, how long does it take to toast a slice of whole grain bread for breakfast and slather it with yogurt/jam/peanut butter? To microwave veggies, a sweet potato, or eggs for lunch (and pack ‘em to go if needed)? To grab an apple, banana, or piece of cheese in the afternoon. Folks less often skip dinner, the meal they allow themselves and make time for. A second reason people ignore hunger is because they “forget” to eat. That could happen only if they’re disconnected from hunger signals which grow naturally until they’re intrusive and annoying. What folks usually mean when they insist they “forgot” to eat is that they felt but ignored hunger signals.

A third reason folks don’t eat when they’re hungry is because they can’t figure out what to eat. “Normal” eaters might have this dilemma, but would eat something to stave off hunger, then go for a more satisfying food later on. Recognizing that their body needs fuel to function, they wouldn’t not eat because they don’t know what to choose. A fourth reason for not eating is food being relatively unavailable. Sure, once in a while “normal” eaters get caught unexpectedly in the hunger lurch. But most of the time they plan ahead or stop whatever they’re doing and find food when they need it. Disregulated eaters, on the other hand, allow themselves to get so famished that they end up overeating or bingeing, maybe even setting themselves up so that this will happen.

Most of the time folks don’t eat when they’re hungry due to unconscious motivations or conflicting feelings. Maybe they’re trying to lose weight and believe that starvation is effective. After all, we’re culturally encouraged to ignore hunger signals—told to drink water before a meal to feel full or to put off eating until we’re famished. Maybe they don’t believe they deserve food and nourishment. Or maybe they’re afraid that if they start eating, they won’t stop. Consider whether you often ignore hunger—or pretend you don’t feel it—and why. What is your real goal in dissing the appetite signal that your body needs fuel? Honoring your hunger is one more way of honoring yourself.