| 'listen to your hunger cues'

an everyday moment:

It’s no secret that worldwide obesity is booming in our generation more than it has ever before. Whether it’s on TV, Spotify, Instagram or other social media platforms - as digital consumers we are constantly bombarded by food advertisements. These advertisements promote and convince us of the idea that our truest desire is to just consume food 24/7 because food itself is so attractive, appealing and ‘tempting’. For example: ‘the hottest, juiciest Quarter Pounder yet’ from a Maccas ad verbatim.

When reading books, I even notice that there is typically a culture around eating where characters must restrain from eating ‘too much’ or they observe and are jealous of characters that eat so much and maintain their figure. I’ve experienced this in reality where people are under the impression that they are ‘uncontrollable’ around food and in their most unconscious state they would eat all the food in the world if it didn’t have the social consequences of the god-forbidden horrors of gaining weight that is emphasised so much in media as the one trait to getting societally shunned - ‘fat’.

It's like we hear the words 'listen to your hunger cues' and think 'omg no - that would mean I would eat myself sick'. I’ve also been under the impression that I have to ‘work so hard’ to keep physically fit - thinking that restrictions and monitoring what I eat is necessary. This implies that if I just existed without thinking, I would become a monster around food and disregard my health.


Food companies have wired us to think this way about ourselves. Food companies invest 4 billion dollars into designing food in a way so that it interacts with our tastebuds to trigger all the reward chemicals in our brain so that we are wired to come back for more, tampering our dopamine system. This is the case for ultra-processed foods not whole foods. From an evolutionary perspective, humans are wired to gauge the safety of food and its nutrition by its sweetness. Stuck in the bush with berries to eat, the one that tastes sour indicates to us that it may be poisonous as opposed to berries that taste sweet which indicate that they are safe to eat and provide a quick source of energy.

Traits of our primal way of choosing food are specifically targeted by the food companies that produce ultra processed foods. FYI, ultra processed foods are ones that have ingredients that do not consist of ingredients you have in your pantry or you would not be able to recreate it at home. Please do not take this as nutritional advice or rule it out of your diet completely. Punitive measures, rigidity and restriction around food often backfires. The opposite end of indulgence and zero consideration of what we eat also backfires - but more on that in another post.

Gradually, our bodies cannot exercise its wisdom in its food choice, constantly stimulated by these over-processed foods that whole foods cannot compete with. So of course, we think that we are ‘broken’ or ‘bad’ or ‘naughty’ for wanting to keep eating food that is ‘not good for us’ - because the food we are eating is designed to keep us thinking that we are so undisciplined, addicted or indulgent to continually pick ultra processed foods over whole-foods.

→ an example

But that is what we’ve been taught to believe about ourselves and it’s just not true. For example (thanks to majority of food companies) - when someone tells themself that they cannot ‘control themselves around food’, this implies that their version of freedom is to have an all you can eat buffet 24/7 at the sacrifice of their fitness and heath. In this train of thought, they unconsciously believe that this overweight, food-obsessed version of themself is their ‘true self’ that they must continually mask it to appear socially acceptable.

I don’t think a single one of us thought like this about ourselves when we were 2 to 3 years old. We were so immersed in the world and still learning how to eat that we always felt fine around food; no anxiety, no guilt - genuine hunger, satiation and then bye I’m done regardless if there is still food on the plate. We also showed up honestly and were wired with the belief that our healthiest (most able to survive) version of ourselves is our true self. In this state, becoming food-obsessed and obese at this age (if not exposed to advertisements, societal pressures etc. yet) takes MORE effort than eating until satisfaction and moving around. Little kids don’t think about wriggling around and moving, it is literally their natural state - as is intuitive eating.

Take this image and oppose it to the teenager/adult the child may grow up to be. It seems more normal in this society and in this age period to view fitness and mobility as taking MORE energy and motivation to maintain - even taking punishment and self-flagulation. When it takes more energy to go to the gym or remember to exercise, this reinforces the idea that we are trying to be something we are not. And that is the lie that sabotages us time and time again. Because remember, as a child - moving around and eating intuitively was your natural state - and it still is, regardless of food advertisements, social norms and your past habits.

magic in the mundane:

This is honestly a really complicated, multifaceted topic and everyone has their own personal journey. I am completing studies in Psychology specifically to accumulate more knowledge and to speak from a more verifiable perspective about topics like these. But here is what I personally think is helping me and may help you. Take it with a grain of salt :)

  1. Give space for your body to relearn how to choose food. Focus on how you feel before, during and after you eat. The gassiness, bloatedness of certain processed foods or eating until uncomfortably full can offset you from repeating bingeing or eating certain foods. After repetition, your body will naturally crave wholefoods over processed foods because it knows that you feel better in the long term. Be gentle with yourself because this takes time and is an ongoing experimentation.
  2. Also, reset your subconscious beliefs. Rather than believe that at zero energy, you will pick all the ‘bad foods’, believe that at zero energy your body wants to thrive and will pick the foods that nourish you in the long term and promote your fitness.
  3. If you believe that without effort and if you were to ‘let loose’ you would consume every possible food around you, reverse that belief and practise reminding yourself of that little child (that you were originally) where letting loose meant moving around, exercising your curiosity until you were exhausted and only the pang of hunger made you remember that eating is a necessity.
  4. Different cultures have different conversation around eating. In Western cultures and my own culture, usually we ask others ‘are you full?’ AKA (have you eaten until you physically cannot eat anymore?). On the other hand, in Arabic and French cultures they ask ‘are you satisfied, are you no longer hungry?’. Here, satiation and fullness are two different concepts. You can be satiated without being overly stuffed. In Japan, they have a phrase ‘Hara hachi bun me (腹八分目)’ meaning ‘is your belly 80% full?’ vs the 100% full - because usually 100% full is not satisfying, it is physically uncomfortable. It takes 20 minutes before we register our fullness, so it is illogical to ask if someone’s full - because they haven’t had the time to know yet! Meals in social settings are also integral - it is during meals where you talk and listen with others, taking time between bites - providing your body the time to process food and your mind to register when to stop or start eating. You also deepen your connection with others, feeling nourished both physically and spiritually.
  5. Practise looking forward to things that are not food:
  • a book
  • a hot shower
  • a dance break
  • sleep
  • a long walk
  • a talk with someone close
  • retraining your mind to see food as nourishment and a source of rest - but not the best one and NOT a restricted one, it isn’t scarce - there is an abundance of food (hopefully in your circumstances)
  1. Say bye to the clean plate ethos. You are not hurting anyone but yourself by eating everything on your plate even if you are already satisfied. Yes, there are people starving - but you are not helping them by eating the last potato on the plate. If you wait, think about it and realise you feel satisfied without eating it (even if you feel like it is super easy to eat it), you don’t need to eat it. And no, you don’t need to feel guilty, if you feel guilty that’s fine but realise that guilt stems from conditioning growing up where you were told that ‘not finishing food’ made you personally responsible for all the people starving in the world or made you an ungrateful, wasteful and bad person. That guilt stems from the part of you that strategically ensures you are delivered affection by your community who champion you when you finish your food. You are lovable without finishing your plate. In nature, balance is reached by going to either extreme. You are a part of nature so only by eating more than your fill or eating less than your fill and then reflecting on what works do you realise the portion you require. This swinging from either end will inevitably end up in some plates being left unclean. After some practise, knowing how much food your require becomes habitual and in the long term you contribute to less food waste.

fromtheheart mantras

  • By giving myself permission to say no to certain foods or to eat in a way that is kind to my body, I also give permission for others to do the same
  • I am committed to my most natural, normal way of being which involves moving and eating in a way that improves my longevity and quality of life.
  • Relearning my relationship to my body, food and eating is a non-linear journey. It’s okay to feel frustrated, to fall back into learned habits, to feel like I’m going backwards then forwards then sideways. I can use these moments as moments of growth and I can use mistakes as a reminder that I am further along my journey than where I was before because what I observed would not have irritated me before, they would have been ‘normal’.
  • I can go for my dreams and work towards my vision no matter my relationship with food and body image. Areas of life progress simultaneously not systematically one after the other.
    side note: I actually felt held back lately, thinking I should filter these topics as being too taboo or lacking credibility. I felt a real writer’s block because these were the topics that were coming up in real time and what I really wanted to write about. A reminder to both myself and to the reader - imperfect decisions and creations are okay since perfect decisions and creations are usually always in a distant future that never arrives.

    with love, 

    from the heart <3

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