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Hunger Denial and How Diet Culture Teaches Us To Ignore Our Bodies

healthy behaviours healthy lifestyle stop overeating weight loss May 22, 2023

Your stomach’s growling so loudly, you can’t ignore it any longer. When you go to check your watch, it’s only 11am. 


“That’s way too early for lunch, how can I be so hungry right now?!”


In a panic, you grab snack after snack to try and satisfy your hunger, only to end up overeating so much you don’t want your lunch when the time comes. Instead, you end up in a cycle of shame and guilt. 


It's no wonder so many of us have experienced this kind of hunger denial. We live in a culture which is set up to constantly distract us from listening to our bodies, and have always been told to fear and resist hunger by the diet industry. 


I want to explore how we can start to turn off autopilot, and tune into what our body really needs. Only then can you set a different standard for yourself, where you can regain authority and honor your body.


What is hunger denial?

Hunger denial is when you feel hunger but deny it should be happening. For example, you might have all the physical signs of hunger like a grumbling stomach, but because it’s not what you’d consider “time to eat”, you deny it and resist it. 


When you are in hunger denial, you typically don't make great choices. Instead of having a balanced meal because you are acknowledging your own body and listening to your hunger cues, you might grab a snack like a donut or a granola bar. Simply because it’s not when you normally have a meal, you enter panic mode, and everything feels urgent. 


Women commonly freak out about this when they experience more hunger around their menstrual cycle. Every month around a period, some of my clients feel hungrier, but try not to eat. This ends up creating huge resistance and suffering.


The simple solution is to handle hunger with a great choice for your body. It doesn't have to have drama attached to it. It doesn’t need to be this big thing. Honor your body with a great choice. 


Diet culture has told us not to listen to our bodies


The reason so many of us find it difficult to listen to our body and have a more intuitive eating approach is because of what diet culture has taught each and every one of us. It tells us you cannot trust your own body, and need to follow certain food rules such as how many calories you should eat. 


Diet culture is based around someone else’s rules being imposed on you, and it doesn't work longer term. You need to live your life according to your own values and your own integrity. That is the only way to feel meaningful, fulfilled, and satisfied. Ultimately, you will rebel against someone else’s rules because your autonomy, agency, and power are taken away. Remember that you are the authority, and you know best. 


The caveat to this would be if you suffer from disordered eating, or eat a diet with a lot of highly processed foods. In this case, mechanical eating may be necessary for a while, where you focus on 3 balanced meals a day. 


With disordered eating, you won’t experience appropriate hunger and fullness cues because the eating disorder gets in the way of proper nourishment. Similarly, highly processed foods don’t trigger appropriate fullness cues in your brain and you experience lots of cravings based on the brain’s desire for its next sugar and dopamine hit.  


As you practice mechanical eating, the goal over time is to reset the body’s appropriate hunger and fullness cues so that you can trust them in order to achieve a more intuitive eating approach.

Dangers of Distraction


I want to encourage you to get to  a place where you trust your body and you listen to your body. The first check in should always be “Am I actually hungry?”. Try to establish whether you are experiencing physical hunger, or a craving, or an emotion you want to numb. If you’re not familiar with the difference between emotional and physical hunger, head over to my FREE Stop Night-time Snacking course where I explain the difference.


If you determine you are physically hungry, listen to yourself and honor your body. Food is the solution for hunger. It is not the solution for sadness or loneliness. This is really an exercise of mindfulness and awareness.


Unfortunately, the way our culture is set up is that so many of us spend our lives very distracted. We’re distracted by the world, devices, social media, and work. We’re so out of tune with ourselves that we’re not listening to our body, we’re not listening to our emotions, and we’re not listening to our thoughts. Because of this, we have no awareness of our physical cues.


We live in a society that does not prioritize caring for our bodies. So let’s set a different standard where we do pay attention to our physical cues. We do have awareness of how we’re feeling and what we’re thinking. To do this, we need to turn off autopilot in order to be more present and mindful, and pay attention to what your body needs.


Hunger is not an Emergency


Hunger often brings up a lot of anxiety, especially if you have starved yourself on low calorie diets before. We need to train ourselves to remember that it’s not an emergency if we feel hungry. We can still make a great choice. 


The alternative is to suppress those feelings, and end up reaching for snack after snack without ever satisfying your body’s needs. This often leads to a cycle of overeating and feeling shame and guilt afterwards.


If you need help with taking a more intuitive approach, Best Weight is the only program across Canada exclusively for women, which teaches you how to stop overeating. Whether it’s mindless snacking, emotional eating, or binging, we show you how to lose weight for the last time.


Apply for a discovery call with my team here.

I’d love to welcome you in to help you live a life where you’re thriving.

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