Eat Smarter Using Your Hunger Cues

by Elle Penner, MPH, RD
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Eat Smarter Using Your Hunger Cues

We all know the unpleasantness of feeling hungry. Even the slightest grumble has the ability to send many of us into a panic, searching for whatever food we can get our hands on. This sense of urgency was likely advantageous back when we were hunters and gatherers, when finding a meal took far more time and energy than it does now. But with snack bars in our purses, fast food on every corner, and scheduled mealtimes these days, it’s entirely possible, and probably quite normal, for many of us to go an entire day without feeling hungry. Go a few days, a week, or month without feeling hungry and it’s easy to understand not only why we fear this foreign feeling, but also why we gain or are not able to lose weight.

The truth is, a grumbling stomach is nothing more than a gentle reminder that our body needs some fuel. It plays an important role in helping us maintain a neutral energy balance, which basically means we burn as much energy as we consume. That being said, there are different degrees of hunger, some we certainly want to avoid. A small grumble of the tummy is good! It’s when we start to experience shakiness, difficulty concentrating, or nausea that it becomes a problem, because allowing ourselves to get too hungry is unhealthy and can lead to negative outcomes.

Hunger is a communication within the body that should be respected and embraced, not feared. It might seem easy but resisting the urge to chow down until you actually feel a bit hungry can be tough, especially if you’re not used to it or you’re on a schedule, bored, stressed, tired, or out socializing with friends.


The next time your stomach growls, smile! Your body is telling you it’s ready to eat.

Try to eat something within 30 minutes of first feeling hungry. This stabilizes your blood sugar and fend off the urge to overeat.

After a meal, wait to feel hungry before eating again. Don’t just eat simply because mealtime rolls around.

If you feel hungry but not sure you are, drink a glass of water. Thirst can also be misinterpreted as hunger.

When food comes to mind, decide if it’s a need or a want. You need food when you physically feel hungry. If you’re not physically hungry, distract yourself by taking a walk, phoning a friend or doing another activity. Sometimes it takes just a few minutes to take your mind off of eating when you’re not really hungry.

Take time to enjoy your food. Minimize distractions during mealtime and remember, it takes about 20 minutes to feel satisfied once you begin eating.

We hope you find these tips helpful and that the next hunger pang you feel will be pleasant, not panic-inducing. Feel free to share any other hunger cue tips you have in the comments below!

About the Author

Elle Penner, MPH, RD

Elle is a nutrition and wellness writer, recipe developer, blogger and nutrition consultant whose favorite things include her camera, carbs and quality time with her toddler. For more from this busy mama, check out Elle’s lifestyle blog or connect with her on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.


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