Monday, June 20, 2011

Intuitive Eating Review - eat when you are hungry

With the increasing popularity of intuitive eating, I thought I’d take a closer look as to why this approach to weight management was not the answer for me. From my last post, I wrote about participating in an intuitive eating support group. I started at the end of the summer 2001, and left the group in spring 2002.

When I left the intuitive eating group therapy, deep down, I knew that my eating issues remained unresolved. I suppose I thought I had the answer and the tools I needed; I just needed the strength to follow through on the seven rules.

Until now, I never really thought about why intuitive eating did not work for me. Throughout the next several posts, I’m going to examine the seven rules of intuitive eating (according to Geneen Roth) to determine why intuitive eating did not work for me.

Rule 1: Eat when you are hungry

Intuitive eating uses a hunger scale to help you figure out when to eat and when to stop eating. (Here are a couple of links regarding hunger scales for more info: Recognizing Hunger Signals, A New Hunger Scale.)

When I was a practicing intuitive eater, I believed I always needed to wait for the hunger pangs. But from the bagel experience described in my last post, sometimes those pangs would take hours and hours to come, causing stress and anxiety. If it takes more than three hours for hunger pangs to come, I’m marching into binge potential zone. I now realize that I need to be in tune to other signs of hunger such as losing focus, diminishing patience and a growing need to eat.

Two weeks ago, I found I was hungrier during the day at work. I planned the same meals as the week before, but it didn’t seem to be enough. So, I experimented with my hunger. Was I actually hungry or was it anxiety?

The hunger came in the afternoon after lunch. I had eaten enough food to be satisfied, so I decided to sit with the hunger a bit. Surprisingly, the hunger didn’t grow; it just stayed the same, a constant rumble in my tummy. Eventually, it just went away. It was anxiety, not hunger after all. If I were hungry, it would have escalated until I was a raving lunatic on the hunt for chocolate and mini-cupcakes.

It's difficult to determine when to eat. Of course, it’s simple for some, just like breathing. But, for others, like me, hunger isn’t just hunger. Hunger can also be anxiety masquerading as hunger. And this is why rule 1: eat when you are hungry was difficult for me. I was unable to figure out when I was hungry enough to eat, but not so hungry that I would overeat.

Tomorrow the review continues with Rule 2: eat sitting down in a calm environment


  1. See to me it could all come down to this one thing. Eat when I am physically hungry. But all too often I eat when I am not.

  2. Eating when I'm hungry did not work for me - nor does drinking when I'm thirsty. I have to eat at 7-10-12-3-6 and down my water like I'm a camel if I want to lose. If I wait until I'm hungry, I down a whole bag of Doritos with some oatmeal cream pies to add in. :) Very interested in your post about eating sitting down in a calm environment!

  3. Have you tried eating every 3 to 4 hours until you recognize your hunger signals? For many that don't understand their bodies signals, it can be helpful to start "eating by the clock" and tuning into what you feel in your body at those time.


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