So, you’ve taken the brave step of embracing Intuitive Eating and waving goodbye to those soul-sucking restrictive diets. You’re all fired up to reconnect with your hunger cues, but what’s that? Crickets …No hunger cues in sight!
Now you’re scratching your head, wondering, “Why the heck am I not hungry?” Trust me, I feel your frustration! Making progress on this Intuitive Eating journey can sometimes feel like spinning your wheels in a mud pit. You’re left wondering, “Why can’t I just eat like a normal person?!”
But hey, don’t throw in the towel just yet. I’m here to shed some light on the matter and offer some practical advice. So, let’s unravel the mystery of the vanishing hunger cues, shall we?
Why Don't I Feel Hungry? #1 Your Hunger Cues Were Ignored For Too Long
Probably the biggest reason why you don’t feel hungry is because your hunger cues simply went AWOL. Yep, it’s like they packed their bags, hopped on a spaceship, and ventured off to a distant galaxy. You’ve simply lost touch with those nifty signals our bodies use to regulate our eating. It’s like they’ve given up on us. Our bodies have gotten so fed up with us ignoring their cries for nourishment that they’ve decided to stage a hunger cue strike.
Can you blame them?
So now, we’re left stranded in the vast wilderness of eating without a GPS, swinging between hangry and overstuffed like a crazed pendulum. We’ve lost the ability to navigate our own way. But don’t worry, you can get those cues back!
More on that later…
Why Don't I Feel Hungry? #2 Emotions Running Amuk
Oh boy, those overwhelming feelings can be a tornado that sweeps away any trace of hunger. When stress, anxiety, fear, and overwhelm hit us like a ton of bricks, our hunger goes into hiding. Picture this: you’re having one of those insane days at work, suddenly, you look at the clock and gasp, “Wait, it’s WHAT time?! How did I skip lunch?” Your hunger has vanished faster than a magician’s rabbit. And for good reason…
When stress and anxiety heighten, that’s like DEFCON 3 alert for your brain. You experience an internal chemical warfare, getting you prepped to fight, flee, or freeze, and your brain’s number one focus is the threat (even perceived threats). Your hunger cues quiet so you don’t get distracted by your hunger cues, and “oh look at that cookie!”. Your survival is your brain’s number one priority. Make sense?
But here’s the kicker: by the time you realize it’s been ages since your last meal, bam! You’re ravenous! It’s like your stomach is screaming, “Feed me, NOW!” as you transform into a devouring wolf.
So, my advice is to tackle those emotions head-on, proactively. Find ways to handle stress, nurture your well-being, and kick anxiety to the curb. Get your body moving, meditate, play fun positive music, listen to encouraging podcasts, or spill your guts out on paper through journaling. There’s a whole world of possibilities waiting for you.
Feel free to grab my 175 Things To Do Besides Emotionally Eat handout. It’s a great place to grab other tool ideas and other ways to healthfully cope with your emotions.
Now, let’s talk about reason number three:
Why Don't I Feel Hungry? #3 Medications or Illness
When you’re feeling under the weather, the last thing on your mind is food. Your appetite takes a nose-dive, and even the thought of a scrumptious meal can send shivers down your spine. Sometimes all you can tolerate is toast, cereal, or something else that you typically don’t find yourself craving.
And guess what? Certain medications can mess with your hunger too. Some might even turn you into a bottomless pit, making you hungrier than a bear awakening from hibernation (looking at you, steroids).
On the flip side, there are those sneaky meds that squash your appetite like a bug, leaving you with the appetite of a picky toddler. It can a real minefield sometimes, but fear not! Focus on staying hydrated and as comfortable as possible during illness. And when it comes to medications, work closely with your healthcare provider to manage any appetite-related concerns. Remember, you’re not alone on this journey.
Last but certainly not least, reason number four…
Why Don't I Feel Hungry? #4 You Simply Don't Need It
You might simply not need the extra energy right now. It’s perfectly normal for our hunger to ebb and flow like the tides of the ocean. It’s a dance, a delicate symphony orchestrated by our body’s intricate systems.
You might feel less hungry after a feast fit for a king, or your hunger might skyrocket after a wild workout session. I know for me personally if I weight train, even if it’s the lightest workout, I ALWAYS need more food the next day. Even the waltz of hormonal changes during your period can throw your hunger off balance. So, embrace the ebb and flow. Trust your body’s natural rhythm. It knows what it’s doing.
Now that we’ve unraveled the four reasons why your hunger might have taken a vacation, let’s address the big question:
Should I eat if I'm not hungry? Or wait?
Ah, the million-dollar question! Well, my friend, the answer isn’t a straightforward one. In the realm of Intuitive Eating, we talk a lot about “listening to your body.” And guess what? Your body isn’t just your tummy. Your head is in on the game too!
Even if your hunger cues are throwing a wild party elsewhere, you still have to nourish yourself consistently throughout the day. It’s like a little act of love for your magnificent vessel. Stick to foods that you know your body can tolerate, and focus more on overall energy intake than obsessing over specific nutrients. Don’t be afraid to skip the veggie parade if they’re not appealing at the moment. Your body will guide you back to them when the time is right.
When you are relearning your hunger cues and healing your relationship with food, as you learned, sometimes your hunger cues just go AWOL. To get them back, especially in the early stages, sometimes you have to kickstart that bio-nutritional circadian rhythm again.
Yes, you have an eating circadian rhythm too!
It’s like this. If you took a trip across the world and back, your sleep circadian rhythm would be off and you’d be waking up at all hours of the day. How would you reset it? By saying, “I’m going to get up by X and go to bed by Y”.
When you’ve been dieting for years or decades, your eating rhythm can get all over the place too. So sometimes you have to use your head and intentionally create a new eating rhythm for yourself, and that’s ok. I always recommend never go more than 5 hours without eating.
As you get some consistency into place those hunger cues will revive and eating when you’re hungry will be a very pleasant and natural experience.
Now, let’s flip the coin and address the opposite question:
What if I'm not hungry, but the bag of chips or the brownies on the counter are hypnotizing me to eat them?
Eating when you’re not hungry isn’t always a bad thing, nor does that mean you are “mindless”. It’s normal to at times still eat when you’re not hungry. Remember, intuitive eating is NOT a hard core diet!
However, it’s something to be mindful of. If you’re not hungry when you eat, still stay tuned in when you eat and eat it mindfully versus engaging with the deep rebel within you that makes you check out.
If you find yourself often eating when you’re not hungry, it could be a sign of emotional eating, using food as a way to mask your emotions. Don’t get me wrong, occasional or sporadic emotional eating isn’t anything I would get too worried about. We all do it, we have our toolbox of coping mechanisms, and food every once in a while can be one of the tools. But we don’t want it to be the only tool in your kit. Also make sure you aren’t depriving yourself, deprivation is a top emotional eating trigger.
A few more knowledge bombs…
We want pleasant hunger, NOT ravenous hunger...
If you go too long without giving your body the energy it needs, you’re setting yourself up for an intense hunger explosion later on. It’s like poking a sleeping bear with a stick (not the nice panda bear kind either). This is NOT the level of hunger you should be waiting for to eat.
Our body and mind feel agitated when you aren’t eating enough or not eating enough nutrients. That agitation gets your attention that you need to eat. If we didn’t didn’t have the ability to feel “hangry” then we’d all be at high risk for being malnourished and starved.
But by the time we get ravenous, our body is too nutritionally stressed and biology takes over and forces you to eat NOW, and FAST. Mindful eating in this times is pretty tough.
Reconnecting with your hunger cues and building trust with your body is a big key to breaking free from that vicious restrict-and-binge cycle. You know the one—it makes you feel like a food-crazed maniac, completely out of control, desperately seeking any source of food in sight. It’s your body’s way of saying, “OMG, I NEED ENERGY! GIVE IT TO ME NOW!” And if you don’t listen, it’s like, “Uh-oh, she’s ignoring me again! Better stock up just in case she starves me again!” So, let’s avoid that chaotic rollercoaster, shall we?
One More Word Of Advice...
Embarking on this Intuitive Eating journey isn’t going to be a bullseye from the get-go. It’s like shooting an arrow for the first time—you’re probably gonna miss the target by a mile. But guess what? That’s okay! It’s unrealistic to expect perfection right off the bat.
Learning takes time, practice, and a whole lot of trial and error. So, if your first shot veers way off to the left, don’t sweat it. Take that experience, learn from it, and give it another shot. You’ve got this!
Remember to be patient with yourself. Rebuilding that connection with your body takes time, but trust me, it’s worth every step of the way. Keep nourishing yourself, listen to those hunger cues (even if they’re playing hide-and-seek), and above all, be kind to yourself. You’re on the path to a healthier relationship with food and your body, and that’s something to celebrate.
We are here to support you all the way too. It’s always easier and fast to get where you want to go by working together versus alone. If you’re ready to begin removing your food rules and feel back in control with your eating (without getting all diet-y), then check out our Diet Freedom Membership to get our structured framework to follow, monthly coaching and workshops, and a community FULL of amazing people who understand what you’re going through.
It’s the perfect starting point to finally break up with diet culture and fall back in love with your life!
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Author Shelby McDaniel
Hi! I’m Shelby and I’m a food lovin’ nutritionist but…I’m not a regular nutritionist. I’m an intuitive eating specialist, eating psychology practitioner, and Certified Mind Body Nutrition Coach, here to free you from diet culture once and for all! Because you deserve peace with food, eating, and your body. (Yes, I'm talking to YOU!)