Honoring our hunger and fullness are key pieces of eating more mindfully, but can we take this too far? Can we actually put too much emphasis on eating just the right amount? I’d say we absolutely can, and actually think it’s pretty common especially in the beginning phases of learning to eat more intuitively. Coming off the rigidity of dieting, it is fairly easy to see how our rule based mindset around food can continue even when we are no longer “on a diet”. This certainly is true for paying attention to our hunger and fullness cues. We can get so wrapped up in eating “just the right amount” that any amount above or below that imaginary perfect amount seems like a failure.
It is fairly easy to turn the idea of eating mindfully into essentially the hunger/fullness diet when we are in this space leading to all the same issues that your run of the mill diet does: binging, restriction, guilt, shame, and even exercising to “make up for” eating past fullness. So how do we avoid turning intuitive eating into a diet? I think the key to this is to hold this idea of honoring hunger and fullness lightly. Yes it is important to pay attention to our hunger and fullness cues, but it’s also important we acknowledge that we are not going to do this perfectly.
We will have meals where we leave the table feeling overly full. We also may have meals where we maybe don’t eat quite as much as we need and end up feeling like a snack an hour later. We will likely have times where we are not hungry but it’s still a good idea to eat something. For example, I’m not quite hungry yet but I know if I don’t eat now I have X meeting, event etc. to go to and won’t be able to eat for a few hours. We also may want to partake in eating for social reasons. For example, I’m meeting up with a friend after work for happy hour and would feel weird not eating at least a little something since I know he or she will.
There is nothing wrong with eating in these situations and it doesn’t mean we “failed” at eating intuitively if we find we eat in situations where we aren’t incredibly hungry or end up over eating. It’s part of life! If we can use the idea of honoring our hunger and fullness as a guide and not a rule to be strictly followed we are much more likely to be successful. The other piece of good news, is that honoring our hunger and fullness will like all other skills, become easier with practice. So please cut yourself some slack if you notice you are struggling with this. It really will be ok, I promise.
Questions about honoring hunger and fullness or anything else food/body image related? Feel free to get in touch!