Positive hunger may sound like a contradiction in terms.

We tend to think of hunger as a BAD THING and to be avoided if possible. Conventional diets often focus on ensuring that you won’t feel hungry. As Ellen, 43, said in her first Positively Hungry consultation, “I’ve been dieting all my adult life and no-one has ever asked me whether I’m hungry!” So how can hunger be positive, especially in relation to weight loss? The first thing to notice is that hunger is not an all-or-none signal; it comes on gradually in the hours following your last meal. You get slightly hungry and then definitely hungry before you get extremely hungry. By the same token, when you’re eating you get slightly full before you get very full. It is mild hunger which is positive hunger.

5 Benefits of mild hunger:

  1. It’s the signal our bodies naturally evolved over millions of years which indicates that the food from our last meal is being used up. It is in tune with what is happening in our gut.
  2. Food tastes much better when you’re hungry than when you’re not. This is because our taste buds become increasingly sensitive as our hunger increases. It’s one of the ways that our bodies have of regulating our appetite.
  3. As you get slightly hungry and your taste sensitivity increases, this allows you to gauge what you fancy eating. When you’re not hungry it’s easy to eat something that isn’t as enjoyable as you thought it would be so you move on to eating something else.
  4. Feeling slightly hungry when you start eating means that you can use fullness signals from your gut to tell you when you’ve had enough. If you’re not hungry when you start, you’ll have to use another means of deciding when to stop, which will have little to do with your gut, such as whether there’s anything left on your plate.
  5. Positive hunger allows you to lose weight by reducing the amount you eat without needing to change what you eat because it helps you eat less. You still buy, cook and eat the foods you already love.

How ignoring hunger and fullness can lead to weight gain:

Many of us gain weight precisely because we eat past the point of being full or because we eat when we’re not hungry, or both. If you eat too much then tuning in to hunger and fullness signals offers a gentle (and delicious!) way to lose weight permanently.

We all used hunger and fullness as infants:

It can help to remember that as young babies we all used hunger and fullness to guide our eating. Infants cry when hungry and then eagerly accept food when it is offered. When they’ve had enough they turn away and refuse more. We were all like this once. Some of us learn that feeling hungry can be very anxiety-provoking. Or we may learn to use food as a means of reducing unpleasant feelings. Either way many of us associate mild hunger with discomfort or anxiety, even when we’re surrounded by an abundance of food. We associate eating with comfort or reassurance. Discovering the ability to tolerate mild hunger can be a liberating and empowering experience. Learning simple techniques for overcoming feelings of anxiety or discomfort enables you to use this natural feedback system in the way it evolved to be used.

How to use your hunger and fullness signals to guide your eating

  1. Whenever you think of eating, tune in to your gut and gauge how hungry or full you feel right now.
  2. If you are not yet definitely hungry, distract yourself on to another activity and don’t eat yet. Remind yourself that you will enjoy your next meal more because your taste buds will be at their most sensitive.
  3. When you are eating a meal, keep an eye on the changing sensations in your gut and stop when you are just full
  4. While some people find this straightforward many don’t. If you don’t find it straightforward, further information on overcoming blocks to weight loss including a free Anxiety Reduction download is available at the Positively Hungry website.