Am I Hungry?

Filed Under: Intuitive Eating

18 August 2023 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis

Diet culture presents hunger as an enemy. In the world of dieting, hunger is an inconvenience, something to overcome. When we are dieting or following rules, we disconnect from our body because “the plan” dictates how many calories, points, grams we are “allowed” to eat regardless of hunger. In reality, hunger is your body’s way of communicating a basic need for survival. Hunger is necessary for life. It’s not something to be avoided or feel ashamed of and if you consistently ignore your hunger you are depriving your body of the energy it needs from food. Eventually your body will be so deprived that it will be difficult to stop eating even when your stomach is full. Learning to honour hunger signals helps to rebuild trust with yourself and with your body. It’s the one of the most powerful tools that can help you heal your relationship with food.

Your body has an innate wisdom that will tell you when to eat, how much to eat and sometimes even, what to eat.

But if only it was as simple as this.

Many of us are born with this ability but our conditioning, dieting and restricting our food disconnects us from our bodies. In my dieting days I only knew starving or stuffed. I was completely unaware of the nuances of pleasant or gentle hunger. When I was “off” a diet, I avoided hunger – it terrified me. When I was “on” a diet, I would praise myself for enduring hunger and use dieting tools like drinking soda to numb my hunger. Many of my clients feel the same way about hunger and eat in anticipation of hunger. Often clients tell me they don’t know when they’re hungry. Signs of hunger can be experienced in different ways in the body.

Here are some signals your body gives you when it wants to let you know it needs to be fed.


There is a sense of emptiness in your stomach that can be accompanied by a whisper, a growl or a rumble depending on your level of hunger. There could also be a sensation in your throat or your mouth may salivate. You may have a headache when you are hungry.


You may experience being “hangry” or an irritability and crankiness. You might find it hard to concentrate. You could also experience low energy or feel depleted.


When the body is hungry it tries to get our attention in a variety of ways, from physical sensations to mood and energy to thoughts about food, exploring options of what would taste good to eat.

We are all unique when to comes to how we experience hunger. As a general guideline, when we eat when we are hungry, we feel better after we’ve eaten – our energy increases, as does our ability to focus.

Hunger isn’t static, your hunger signals will change depending on many factors such as how much you’ve slept, your level of activity and how much you’ve eaten in previous days. If you are very busy or stressed, it’s more difficult to connect to your hunger cues. We become so task oriented that we ignore or suppress our hunger. Smoking and drinking lots of coffee or tea can also disrupt hunger cues.

Getting to know how you experience hunger is not a perfect science, there is no right or wrong way. When practicing honouring your hunger, it’s useful to be curious and to tune into your body, looking out for the signs. It’s also important to acknowledge that some of us have a lower tolerance for hunger than others. Non-hunger eating is perfectly normal, sometimes we will eat because it looks good or the taste is appealing or for purely practical reasons. In the early stages of Intuitive Eating, the principle of honouring your hunger is very often turned into the “I can only eat when I’m hungry” rule. Sometimes you will eat when you are not hungry and that’s okay. However, if you are consistently eating when you’re not hungry, you may want to examine if you are getting enough sleep, eating enough during the day and if you are eating in calm environment. Also, how you are managing your stress levels.

Recognising how YOU experience hunger in YOUR body is an important step in connecting with your body. When we listen to our hunger, we reconnect to our bodies and this enables us to rebuild trust with ourselves and with our bodies, one meal at time and one bite at a time.

I would love to hear from you and how you experience hunger.

May you learn to befriend and listen to your hunger.

Wishing you well,

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