A common theme across the spectrum of disordered eaters is a disconnection between hunger and fullness (satiety). There are people who do not feel typical hunger sensations and there are those who report not knowing when they are full. There are also individuals who experience both extremes at different times. Hunger and fullness are complex neuro-hormonal signals that are linked to gut health, brain chemistry, and the endocrine system (hormones). Sometimes the solution to disconnection with hunger and fullness lies in the implementation of “mindfulness” practices, but other times it is much more complicated, requiring long-term consistent feeding effort.
Consistency is the key to the “never hungry, never full” approach to eating. In early recovery, one of the first goals is to help clients get back in touch with the concept of hunger and fullness. This involves creating a consistent food plan that should be followed in order to retrain hunger and fullness sensations. Clients often ask: “but what if I am not hungry in the morning for breakfast, am I supposed to eat breakfast anyway?” The answer is yes. We are using breakfast to rewire the communication network between the gut, brain, and hormones. The only way to accomplish this is by doing it. In early recovery, it is counterproductive to wait for hunger signals in the morning. The eating plans needs to be consistent. Think of food as information that we are sending to your body- it is not helpful to send mixed messages.
One of the goals of recovery is to regain access to hunger and fullness cues, which can be used to guide decisions around eating. In some cases it requires extended periods of time to retrain these signals and develop intuitive eating. Other times it is present and simply requires mindfulness practices in the quest to control it. Everyone’s journey is different and it is important not to compare your journey to your peers. Recovery is individual and personal. By being consistent, it is possible to discover your personal roadmap to hunger and fullness regulation.
“Never hungry, never full” is simply avoiding excessive hunger or excessive fullness. The extremes of these feelings are where most of the undesirable decisions and behaviors around eating occur. There is a difference between hunger and excessive hunger that leads to bingeing and subsequent excessive fullness. Under-eating can lead to overeating, or it can lead to a loss of hunger entirely. “Never hungry, never full” strives to gain a position of neutrality where there is safety and protection. It is about eating a snack even if you are not hungry as a protective mechanism to prevent loss of hunger, or to block the development of excessive hunger later on. It requires planning and some discipline and often requires being portable with your food. “Never full” is about gathering all of the tools to stop eating when satisfied and not crossing into the threshold of binge-like fullness. It is about eating an amount that will allow you to eat again in 2.5-4.5 hours without guilt or shame.
This approach towards developing a healthy relationship with food has various benefits. By processing your struggles and victories in a group setting, you gain insight into other peoples problems and can get ideas for your own solutions. By working individually with a dietitian, you can develop additional guiding principles that are tailored to your nutritional needs. Stop living in the extremes of hunger and fullness and start living in the zone of recovery. Never hungry never full!