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The Full Mind Weigh™ to Lifelong Weight Management, a program of the Institute for Lifelong Weight Management – teaching you the skills you need to keep the weight off forever!

Fear of hunger

When was the last time you allowed yourself to experience physical hunger?

Most of us don’t allow ourselves to experience true physical hunger. We fear feeling hungry, and so we avoid it. We snack or graze at regular intervals – perhaps all day – in an effort to avoid the sensation of hunger. We may eat more at any one sitting, in anticipation of not being able to eat for some time, depending on our schedules. As a result, we allow ourselves to become uncomfortably full, rather than risk feeling hungry later. We view hunger as an enemy, something to be conquered, rather than the normal physiological experience that it is.

In evolutionary terms, human beings lived with the constant threat of famine, and so we ate – as much as was available – when we could. Many of us, however, are no longer living with the threat of not having access to food, yet we are wired to feast when the feast is available, in anticipation of the inevitable coming famine.

In evolutionary terms, hunger is a life-saver, since if we never experienced the sensation of hunger, we wouldn’t know when to eat.

Most of us, thankfully, don’t know what true hunger feels like. Hunger sensations may include any or all of the following, and will vary in intensity:

  • Mild gurgling or gnawing in the stomach
  • Growling noises coming from the stomach
  • Light-headedness or mild dizziness or faintness
  • Trouble with concentration
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Feelings of irritability
  • Headache

We know from research that eating mindfully results in eating less – thus lowering our risk of weight gain. Eating mindfully involves eating when we are hungry, and stopping when we are full. Most of us, however, are out of touch with our own hunger.

This exercise allows us to become re-acquainted with our hunger:

Imagine a hunger scale from 0-10, where zero is “ravenous, completely starving” and 10 is “overfull beyond the point of being ‘stuffed’, to the point of feeling ill”. Check in with your body at regular intervals and ask yourself, “what’s my level of hunger right now?” Do this several times per day, and especially right before and right after eating. Pick a point on the scale that feels comfortable for you – somewhere in the middle – and aim to keep your hunger at or close to that level, by eating a light meal or snack and then checking in with yourself to determine if you are still hungry.

When we allow ourselves to experience that which we fear, it loses its power over us.

Often, we misinterpret emotional hunger as physical hunger – we assume that we are hungry for food, when in fact we’re hungry for something else: rest, companionship, relief from painful emotion, meaning in our lives….the possibilities are endless.

Ask yourself: “What am I really hungry for?”

Experiment with using the hunger scale, and share your experience with me and with other readers by commenting on this blog.

For frequent updates on this topic and related topics on weight loss maintenance and motivation, follow me on Facebook and on Pinterest: Institute for Lifelong Weight Management; on Twitter and Instagram: InstituteForLWM.

Free Teleseminar Sunday October 12th at 10 am Central Standard Time: “The Top 7 Mistakes that Smart People make when trying to Lose Weight and Keep it Off Forever – and how YOU can Avoid Them!” For details, call-in information, and to register, email me:

With your continued health in mind,

Doreen Lerner, Ph.D.

Director, The Institute for Lifelong Weight Management

Creator, The Full Mind Weigh™ to Lifelong Weight Management

The Institute for Lifelong Weight Management provides education and training. The Full Mind Weigh™ is strictly an educational program and is not a substitute for medical or psychological evaluation or treatment. If you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder, please consult with a qualified mental health professional who is trained to evaluate and treat eating disorders.