How Do I Know When I'm Hungry?

Updated: Aug 17

When you begin to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full, not only will the scales begin to change but your thinking and habits will begin to change as well.


One habit that you have to work on changing is listening to your body and not the god of the stomach.


Another habit many people have to overcome is to stop counting calories. People have to learn to enjoy their food and the conversations around the meal.


One of the questions most people ask when they start the lifestyle of eating when they are hungry and stopping with they are full, is, "How do I know when I am truly hungry? And How do I know when I am full?"

Hunger and appetite both influence you to eat, but there is a difference between the two.


Hunger is a craving or urgent need for food or a specific nutrient; an uneasy sensation caused by the lack of food. Stomach hunger is a slight burning, empty, hollow sensation that occurs after not eating.


Appetite is a craving for food. It's an emotional response to food. It’s the mental drive to eat what we feel in our minds; that feeling of wanting more regardless of how much we’ve had to eat. It doesn’t always go away after eating and It isn’t always influenced by the time you last ate.


Hunger is the physical drive to eat while appetite is the emotional and mental drive to eat.

One of the biggest learning curves is to notice the difference between hunger and emotional eating.

You need to learn the difference so you don’t mistake an emotional urge to eat for a physical signal that you are indeed hungry. Often, we just eat because we “want” to or its meal time. As you become aware of your hugner and start listening to your body, we can break this unhealthy cycle of emotional eating and giving our body more food than it needs.


The healthy cycle is to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full.

Try this exercise before you eat a meal or snack.

Learn to eat with your head and not your heart. As you do this you will lose both the craving and the desire to overeat.

This may feel awkward at first, but be willing to do it awkward to learn your hunger and full cycles.

1. Focus

Take a minute to focus and see if you feel the slight burning, empty, hollow sensation.

Is your tummy rumbling? Feel empty?

Is your mouth watering at the thought of food?

Have your energy levels dropped?

If you answer yes to any of the above questions, continue with the exercise. If you’re not hungry, go do something you enjoy to get your mind off food.

2. Ask

What food is your body asking for? A certain food group, like fruit? A certain taste – sour, salty, spicy, sweet? A specific food?

You are only going to put so much food in your stomach, so eat what you like!

3. Choose & Observe

Choose your food. Before eating it, notice the food. What is your favorite thing on your plate? After tasting everything eat what you like first.

Don't eat handfuls of food. Eat things as a single item. You may choose a single grape, chocolate chip, almond, piece of cheese, or a cookie :)

If you’re sitting down to a meal or snack, take a moment to observe the food in front of you before you eat.

4. Eat

Take a small bite. Slowly move the food around your mouth. Notice the change in flavor and texture.

Begin chewing. Chew each bite thoroughly and swallow it before taking another.

Notice how quickly you are eating. Become aware of the tendency to rush and get another bite.

After every few bites, check in with your body’s sensations of hunger or fullness.

5. Check In

Rate your level of hunger. Is that gnawing feeling in your stomach still there? How’s your energy?


What would your body say if it could talk?

  • Would it ask for more?

  • Would it tell you to stop eating?

  • Would it tell you that there’s absolutely no more room for food?

  • Is this the food that your body wanted (in terms of flavor, texture, etc)?

  • How did your body respond to the speed at which you were eating?

At first, this exercise may feel like a lot of work. How in the world would you do this at each meal?


It might seem time-consuming and annoying, but I would say that calorie counting is way more annoying!


Over time, this exercise will become more natural. It will become less structured and something that you automatically do with every meal and snack.


Being aware of how your body feels after eating is just as important as the feelings you have before and during. The slower you eat, the easier it is to tune in to your body’s needs and naturally eat less.


Your body is already sending you signals of hunger and fullness. It’s just a matter of learning to listen and respond to them.


It’s being aware of how our body feels after eating certain foods and choosing not to eat the ones that make us feel bad. It’s choosing the amount of food that satisfies us but doesn't leave us feeling so stuffed that it hurts to move. It’s choosing to eat at a pace that allows us time to taste and enjoy every bite (and digest it properly).

There is no need to exclude specific foods or count calories. There are certain foods that are healthier than others and some that promote weight loss over others, but not all foods are right for all people for different reasons.

How we approach food is more about honoring our body than it is following someone's definition of healthy.


Calories are numbers, hunger is a feeling. Mindful eating means trusting your body. God created you for this!! Learning how to identify hunger will help you so much more than counting calories!


So, delete your diet tracking app and enjoy food for what it is – God’s gift to us - Nourishing, delicious, satisfying, and something worth celebrating.


If you want more information about eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full join my Facebook group Simple Changes for the Body Mind and Soul .

3 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All