Mental Hunger Cues When Physical Hunger Cues Aren’t Reliable

Mental hunger vs physical hunger

Mental Hunger Cues vs Physical Hunger Cues


We all know what physical hunger feels like. Physical hunger signals include a growling tummy, an empty stomach feeling, or that overall woozy feeling. And yet there may be times you that those signals just aren’t reliable. For example, if you are a chronic dieter or struggle with disordered eating, then you may have to rely on mental hunger cues rather than physical hunger signs.


Months and years of dieting can zap physical hunger cues to where you don’t experience them at all! This does not mean YOU ARE NOT HUNGRY. Simply put, it means your physical hunger signals aren’t reliable.


When you don’t feel hungry ever, then you must rely on mental hunger signs.


What are emotional hunger signals?


Everyone’s mental or emotional hunger signs are different. But the good news is that it’s quite easy to identify them!


Most common mental signs that you might be hungry:


  • headache

  • fatigue / lack of energy

  • thinking about food (what you want to eat, planning meals, when you’ll eat, etc)

  • feeling annoyed that you’re not physically feeling hungry

  • impatient or easily rattled

  • craving / thinking of a specific type of food (i.e. crunchy, salty, sweet)

  • anxiety

  • OCD behaviors (i.e. tearing food etc)

  • conditional thinking (i.e. as long as I exercise, I’m allowed to eat)

  • dizzy / light headed


Tired mental hunger cue


Some people in eating disorder recovery experience ‘extreme hunger‘. It feels as if no matter how much you eat, you never feel satisfied. If this is you, make sure you’re working with a professional and honoring your mental hunger.


Don’t ignore mental hunger cues


It can be tempting to ignore the mental hunger signs. After all, you may not feel physically hungry. But when you ignore the mental cues, you give the eating disorder momentum. And the eating disorder voice gets LOUDER, showing up more often. You feel more fatigued, more annoyed and have more obsessive food thoughts.


Also, when you ignore these hunger cues and deprive yourself, you are more likely to binge later on.


digital eating disorder coaching


Try honoring a mental cue and see what happens. Observe and notice: did the mental cue dissipate? Did it go away entirely?


In the same way that our physical hunger cues go away after we eat, our mental cues should go away too.


We all have them


Everyone has mental hunger. Anytime you’ve gone awhile (i.e. several hours) without eating and tell yourself “I don’t feel hungry”, it’s likely that you’re missing the mental hunger cues. Pay close attention.


Make a list of what yours might be. Take note of the times you start thinking about food and ask yourself – how long has it been since I’ve last eaten? If it has been over 2.5 hours, chances are YOU ARE HUNGRY. Honor that; don’t write it off.


Every time you honor your mental hunger cues, YOU are winning over ED. Your voice will get stronger and stronger. Maybe to the point where your physical cues come back and are 100% reliable.

Feeling Full After Eating – 3 Tips

sitting with fullness

Sitting With Fullness



It’s safe to say, eating disorder or not, you’ve likely had that uncomfortable feeling full after eating and sitting with the fullness.



Whether you just ate Thanksgiving dinner or you’re in recovery from an eating disorder, that feeling of fullness can not only be uncomfortable, but can also be a precursor to something worse.



It can lead to feelings of self-loathing, shame, more eating disorder behaviors, or perpetuate the binge-restrict cycle.



For me, as I was navigating how to eat again and how often, I became overwhelmed with feelings of ‘fullness’ that I had never experienced before. I wasn’t sure if they were entirely physical, mental or somewhere in between.



But, sitting with fullness was one of the hardest parts of breaking the cycle of behaviors.



I recently came across an essay I wrote while in yoga teacher training on Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart.



In the report, I wrote on how I was coming to terms with fullness and how to sit with it. Additionally, this is a recurring topic I discuss with clients in my 1:1 coaching program.



I’d like to share three helpful tips to coping with feelings of fullness.



Feeling Full After Eating? Sitting with Fullness – 3 Tips



1) Change your mental state



What I mean by this is speak some affirmations and truth to your mind. Shift your mindset. Some powerful affirmations I practiced when feeling full after eating:



“this feeling of fullness is temporary”

“this will pass”

“my body knows what to do”

“trust my body”



2) Change your physical state



There are physical positions that aid digestion and ease that feeling of fullness. A quick google search will yield hundreds of poses. However, be cautious with clicking on these when in a vulnerable state.



Some of my go-to digestive poses are:


child’s pose

happy baby

yogi squat


digestive yoga for feeling full after eating



In addition I made a digestive yoga video (admittedly I’m a little embarrassed by it; this was years ago, but hey it really helps).



3) Sit in the discomfort



Okay I’m sure you’re reading this and flipping me the middle finger at the same time. I know I would be.



Really, Lindsay, sit in the discomfort? Thanks, great advice.



But the discomfort is where you grow after all.



Sit in the fullness. Cry. Get pissed. Write about your feelings. Punch some pillows. Whatever you have to do when you’re feeling full after eating… but, then revisit key number one above. And tell yourself, this will pass. This feeling of fullness will go away.



The first time you sit with fullness, it will feel awful. The second time, still pretty awful. But the fifth, sixth, and fortieth time you start sitting with fullness? It’s less painful. You move on. Eventually you won’t even notice it.



Feeling full after eating isn’t the problem. It’s what we do with it. There are many options to sitting with fullness. Above I’ve only listed three.



The key is to be kind to yourself. Be gentle to yourself and know that sitting with it really is the best thing for you. The eating disorder will try to convince you to compensate or try to ‘beat you up’ and tell you what a terrible person you are. YOU know better. Go revisit these three tips – try one and let me know how it goes!



Finally if you want more tips like this, make sure you’re on my two action Tuesday list – where you get tangible actions each Tuesday on how to navigate recovery.