So you’ve determined that you’re physically hungry…now what? If you are in the habit of planning out times to eat and eating on a schedule, you are in a sense using some type of visible gas gauge and may not be ready to trust yourself internally. If eating has been chaotic and haphazard, hunger and fullness hormones are going to be unreliable.
If you’ve been severely restricting your calories for a long time or you’ve been yo-yo dieting and going through periods of binge eating, it will be difficult to determine true hunger and fullness because those signals are out of whack. Those innate senses have been turned off and ignored for too long and they need to be brought back to life.12 For these reasons, waiting until you feel the internal hunger signal can be unsettling and unstable.
Until you’re ready to wait for hunger to happen, having structured times set during the day to check in with yourself can feel more supportive. Checking in every 2-3 hours to see how you feel, and choosing to eat even if you’re not sure you’re hungry, might feel safer. With practice, and by balancing your carbohydrates and protein at every meal and snack, a continuous rhythm will develop that normalizes your hormones and allows you to wait until your incinerator door truly opens.
You can hit the reset button through eating balanced meals of protein, carbohydrate and fat. See section of the book on BALANCE. You can do this by using fist-sized portions and following a pattern of eating every 3-5 hours. It’s important that you try to understand how you’re feeling before, during and after those planned meals as you practice recognizing the signals. Practicing in this way will help your body get back in tune with a rhythmic pattern of eating that allows normal peaks and valleys in satiety.
The next section of the book shows the difference between eating according to times versus eating according to your physical hunger. Whether you eat at specified times or wait for your physical hunger signal, the food could be the same. However, as we have discussed, it is more effective to eat when physically hungry, when your body incinerator is going to BURN it.
In the book an omnivore and vegan plan demonstrate (and list examples of) how you might balance your fist-sized portion of protein and carbohydrate every time you eat, regardless of the foods you choose.
12. Herbert B, Blechert J, Hautzinger M, Matthias E, Herbert C. Intuitive eating is associated with interoceptive sensitivity. Effects on body mass index. Appetite. 2013;70:22-30.