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.


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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.