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Intuitive Eating: How to Get In Touch With Inner Body Cues

By July 20, 2015 No Comments


Intuitive eating is all about getting in touch with inner body cues, especially hunger, fullness, and satisfaction.   Flywheel Two-Week Tune-Up nutritionists, Willow and Stephanie of C&J Nutrition weigh in on the concept of tapping into those body cues and learning to understand whether you’re eating out of boredom, stress, or other non-physical reasons.  These tips will be especially helpful as you transition from the from the challenge nutrition plan back to eating on your own.

If you’ve ever watched an infant or a toddler eat, then you’ve seen intuitive eating firsthand. Intuitive eating is eating based on your body’s natural inner cues for hunger, fullness, and satisfaction. Infants innately know how often they need to eat and how much they need at each feeding — they base this on how their stomach feels. When you watch a toddler eat, they typically eat when they’re hungry, stop when they’re full, and ask for the foods that they enjoy. Infants and toddlers truly listen to their bodies because they don’t know any different.

Somewhere between infancy and adulthood, we are inundated with messages and experiences that skew our relationships with food. These messages come from so many places, including family, friends, media, the diet industry and more. Many diets encourage us to disregard our hunger cues. We’re here to teach you how to tune in instead!

Use the hunger scale: 
One of our favorite ways to help our clients get back in touch with their natural hunger and fullness cues is by using the hunger scale. The hunger scale is a rating of your hunger level, from 1 (so hungry you feel like your stomach is eating itself) to 10 (so full you’ve got to unbutton your pants and lay down). The scale looks something like this:

  1. So hungry it feels like your stomach is digesting itself.
  2. You’re having frequent stomach growls.
  3. Your stomach is starting to gurgle with light hunger.
  4. You’re not hungry or full. Your stomach is pretty neutral and comfortable.
  5. You’re comfortable, but could eat a little more without being uncomfortably full. If you stopped eating now, you’d likely be hungry an hour later.
  6. You’re satisfied — you could eat a little more, but if you stop eating now you’re not going to get hungry again for a few hours.
  7. You’re full and if you ate any more you’d be uncomfortable.
  8. Very full. You feel uncomfortable and bloated.
  9. So uncomfortably full that you have to loosen your clothing.
  10. You feel nauseated and sleepy.

You’ll see that three through six are in red. That’s your ideal intuitive eating range — start eating when your stomach begins to gurgle with light hunger (around a three) and stop eating when you’re satisfied and won’t be hungry again for a few hours, but aren’t overly stuffed (around a six). This scale is about practicing listening to your own body’s cues, so each of us will have a slightly different experience with the scale. For instance you might need to eat a different amount of food than your friend to achieve a six on the scale.

Keep a food journal:
Now that you understand the hunger scale, it’s time to put it into practice.  We highly recommend keeping a food journal for a few weeks with notes on where you fell on the hunger scale before and after each meal and snack. This is a great way to find the timing for meals and snacks that is most satisfying to you and also a helpful way to pinpoint emotional eating (most likely the times that you were higher on the hunger scale before eating).

Eat what you truly want:
It’s also worth mentioning that intuitive eating is about listening to your body with regard to both the types and amounts of foods you’re eating. Many intuitive eating experts recommend eating what sounds good to you, with no judgments, but doing so with respect to your body’s fullness cues and within the confines of 3-6 on the hunger scale. In other words, if you’re craving potato chips as your afternoon snack then have potato chips — but make sure you eat them when you’re genuinely hungry and stop eating before you’re full. (Also, if you choose these chips, make sure you are sticking to your calorie limit for the day.) Oftentimes your body might crave the things it’s been deprived of at first,  but then will actually start to guide you towards more healthful choices. For example, you might want desserts and chips at first,  but after eating those foods, in portions that keep you within the 3-6 range on the hunger scale, your body may start to crave veggies, whole grains, protein, fruit, etc. If you’re not sure what foods to choose at first, while you’re getting accustomed to the hunger scale, try following a meal plan. Plans like the Two-Week Tune-Up and others can be helpful for meal and snack ideas while you get adjusted to hearing your body’s hunger and fullness cues again.




So much of what we eat is affected by our schedule, stress level, and overall mood. This is especially true for late night binging, which often happens when we say “ahhhhh” after a long, stressful day.  C&J Nutrition offer realistic, healthy tips for breaking the late night binging cycle so you can feel your best for the long haul. Click here to learn more.

“Over the past year, I have lost close to 90 pounds. People tell me I look like a different person. I feel like a different person. Can a stationary bike in a dark room change your life? Definitely.” Read Deb Denny’s FLY story here.


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