How do you know you’re hungry???

This week I am focusing on Honoring My Hunger (from Intuitive Eating). But this poses a major problem because I don’t know how to tell if I’m hungry! Years of dieting and overeating have completely damaged my hunger reader. The R.D. said my  hunger “meter is broken!”  But, it can be fixed with a lot of care and attention.

So, I need your help. How do you tell that you’re hungry?

The book says these are some of the signs of hunger:

  • Mild gurgling or gnawing in your stomach
  • Growling noises
  • Light-headedness
  • Difficultly Concentrating
  • Uncomfortable Stomach Pain
  • Irritability
  • Feeling faint
  • Headache

Question: What are your signs of hunger?

Do you eat right away when you feel this coming, or is it not an urgent thing?

Do you know when you’re full?

I’m seriously learning what hunger feels like right now so I am curious how others know they are hungry.


  1. says

    my biggest sign that i’m hungry is irritability. i get very snappy at ppl if i let myself get too hungry. usually this means i am WAY hungry and need food asap. some of the other signs i feel too but it’s more of an “oh hey yeah i’m hungry but i can wait until i finish whatever i’m doing”

    and usually when i let irritability tell me when i’m hungry i can never tell when i’m full because i eat so fast! definitely something i need to work on too…

  2. says

    This was really hard for me too but I noticed that stomach growling or trouble concentrating are my too big ones. If I wait too long I feel a little sick to my stomach.

  3. says

    I usually have the tummy rumbles or else my stomach has that little “gnawing” feeling to tell me it needs food. However, sometimes dehydration can be masked as a feeling of hunger, so I might try a glass or water or tea or something if I’m not sure if it’s really hunger (like if I just ate breakfast an hour ago)

    Sometimes that does the trick, but if I still feel hungry after that, I definitely eat something! Hopefully people never have to wait until they are light-headed or have stomach pain or headache before they actually eat! That makes me nervous, haha.

  4. says

    I am interested in seeign what others have to say. I was someone who, due to an ED, had to re-learn my hunger and fullness cues. I’ve had a blog post in the works about it for a while.

    One of the things that I did was to ask myself about halfway or two-thirds of the way through my meal how I felt. I noticed that when I was getting full that food wouldn’t taste as good as it did when I started to eat – I also asked myself how I felt before I started eating or was staring into the vending machine – was I hungry?

    My cues for hunger are that I start to notice an empty feeling in my stomach that can’t be filled with water. I want food, and not just sweets – I want broccoli, or carrots, or to cook and eat some chicken with rice. It’s hard for me to give a great answer because right now I’m not hungry, so I cant’ really think of what my specific “I need to eat” cues are beyond the general.

  5. says

    The first signs for me are always “Mild gurgling or gnawing in your stomach” and “Growling noises”. I try to eat right then – light-headedness or even headaches are not so fun :-(

    as for the “knowing when I’m full” part – that’s harder. I just try to eat a normal size portion, and then wait for a little bit after I ate to figure out whether I’m really still hungry or just craving something extra (like, dessert).
    This is something I still need to work on though…

  6. says

    My biggest hunger cue is when it feels like my stomach is eating itself…which I guess is that gnawing feeling.

    I also notice that I get kind of light feeling. Like my head is not all in what I’m doing.

    I have to be careful though because if I get too engrossed in what I’m doing I can ignore these and forget to eat for a LONG time.

  7. says

    I’m learning IE too. I’ve been reading up on it for a while. I’ve noticed that I have a gnawing feeling that can’t be satisfied with water after 15 minutes. It’s sooo hard to learn this. I’ve been on some sort of eating plan or another since I was 8(!). It’s time to learn this.

  8. Meghan says

    I’ve never commented but I really like your blog! I had to comment on this post because when I’m grumpy, my friends and family always say “uh-oh, Meghan’s hungry…” The signs of hunger you posted are definitely all true for me, but I try to eat before those kick into high gear because otherwise I have a harder time telling when I’m full or making the best choice possible about what to eat. I usually try to eat something when I can feel that my stomach is empty and and I have a slight drop in energy. I usually know that I’ve had enough to eat when the food stops tasting as good as it did at first (eat slowly!) or when my stomach feels like it has something in it, but there’s still room for a little more. Slow eating really helps with hunger and fullness signals and helps me realize when I’m satisfied instead of stuffed with food. It takes some thought but it’s worth the brain power because I absolutely hate feeling too full. For awhile I had to make myself leave a few bites on the plate to get used to not “having” to clear my plate of food.

  9. hungrywanderers says

    The book’s descriptions are right on for signs of hunger, but usually when those cues happen it’s close to too late. I try to keep a bar or almonds or something in my purse so I can have a little something to calm the irritability demons then get to my meal as soon as I can. It definitely took a while for me to recognize the cues and I still mistake hunger for thirst or just gas or something some times :-)

    As for being full, my mind actually seems to know when I’m full – I just some times ignore it. If you wait until your stomach feels full, you’re too full since it takes a while for your brain to register. I try to eat slowly, and while I eat slower than I used to, it helps to have conversation or do other things while I’m eating to help slow me down…


  10. Christy says

    I am also trying to learn my hunger cues since I have long since forgotten them. So far I notice that my stomach feels empty and random thoughts of food come to mind. I always try water first but that never usually works since I drink ALL day long. Then if I wait too long to eat I become a monster and making a decision is so overwhelming I want to cry. My husband works hard on NOT letting me get to that point! haha. Good luck with your journey. I am enjoying reading your experience since I am going through the same thing. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Food n Fitness says

    I try not to get to the point where I can’t concentrate or I feel light headed–if that happens then I know that it’s been a while since I’ve eaten and I’ll pretty much go crazy and eat whatever I find. I try to eat every few hours, that way I don’t get to that level of hunger.

  12. says

    It took me a long time to learn this too…I never used to even give myself a change to get hungry between binging and/or binging and purging. I even still struggle with it now, but it’s the opposite…by the time that I even realize that I’m hungry, it’s been far too long since I last ate, and I’m in the danger zone blood sugar wise.

    I know that I’m hungry when a) I’m shaky, b) I can’t focus on what I’m doing, and c) my stomach feels empty. Even now, my stomach isn’t much of a growler…unless I’m super duper hungry. I can usually tell that I’m hungry because I keep trying to get something done (esp at work), but I can’t quite get the hootspa to follow it through.

    The time when being actually hungry is still difficult for me is when I just ate like 2 hours prior. I still have a twinge of guilt when that happens…like “holy sheeet, fat ass…you JUST ate!” BUT, that is a passing thought and I always honor my hunger.

    I generally know when I’m full…but that still doesn’t mean that I honor my fullness. I’ve mastered the honoring of my hunger, but I haven’t quite learned how to obey the “full” part yet.

  13. says

    I definitely get that gnawing feeling in my stomach. I like to wait until I feel empty inside, all while drinking lots of water.

    I always try to wait it out until I know I am TRULY hungry because I’ve noticed that I enjoy my next meal much more.

    I always try to be aware of how full I am especially if I haven’t portioned out my own meal. If I’m out to eat I take slow, deliberate bites and stop when either the foods stops tasting as good or when you hit that little hurdle and take that deep breath and sigh. THAT is the point of no return for me…the sigh.

  14. Sarah says

    Someone mentioned their hunger feels like the overwhelming desire to kick someone’s ass…I’d have to second that. I also completely lose the ability to concentrate, will feel my energy slumping or will get the empty/gnawing feeling in my tummy. I am a snacker (trying to eat 4-6 smaller meals a day), so I never let that feeling percolate for too long.

    Learning to be full was much harder for me…in my daily life, portioning food out usually works, because I only make enough to eat right then. At restaurants or family meals, I’m slowly learning to pause and evaluate when there’s about 1/3 of the food left on my plate. I think, “If I eat more of this, will I feel stuffed? Will I feel sick? What would I like just one more taste of?” Then I’ll usually take a few more bites of whatever that is (usually a starch, yum!) and drink a big glass of water. I might still feel hungry right that second, but in about 10 minutes I’ll be perfectly full and content.

  15. says

    I get a mild gnawing when I know I’m ready to eat. If I get too hungry I can’t concentrate and get very irritable. I usually eat right away when I get the gnawing feeling otherwise I’ll get too hungry and gorge myself on whatever I can get my hands on. Sometimes I get an “empty” feeling that I can’t decide if its hunger or not. Sometimes when I get hungry I can’t figure out how hungry I am…I don’t want to eat something too small when my tummy grumbles, but I don’t want to eat too much and feel uncomfortable either. Thats where my problem is. I know when I’m full, but on some occasions I ignore it. I always regret it because it hurts so much, I’m really trying hard to stop that.

  16. says

    I used to have the same problem after years of disordered eating. I started eating small meals every 3-4 hours and eventually my body got used to it and would automatically start grumbling every 3-4 hours. It was like clockwork!

  17. says

    it is weird, now that i am back on body for life strictly, i will get hungry every 3 hours life CLOCKWORK. 2.5 hours after i eat i will think “there is no way i will be hungry in a half hour” and then when the clock hits that 3 hour mark, BAM, hunger. it is like a sharp punch in the stomach sometimes. i don’t let it last long because i know when my stomach starts to growl it is actually eating away at my hard-earned muscle. i think that eating 200-300 calories every 3 hours is the way to go for me, then i am never left starving!

  18. Renee says

    I have been reading the Intuitive Eating book as well and I can totally relate to not knowing how to judge my hunger. I usually can’t tell until I am too hungry and then I over eat. I am learning that I typically get a small headache when I start to get hungry. I am trying to slow down my eating to tell when I am full. It is really hard though. Years of dieting and resticting has totally screwed me up. It feels so good to start getting a hold of the problem though.

    I can also relate to going to the kitchen for a snack as soon as I get home from work. I will have a bite of this and a handful of that and before you know it you have consumed the same amount of calories as an entire meal. I am going to try your idea of making the kitchen off limits for 30 min and then if I am truly hungry I will go in and get a small snack.

    Thanks for the wonderful posts lately regarding intuitive eating. I believe that this method really works and I can tell a difference in how I feel when I follow the program.

  19. Evan Thomas says

    I notice I’m hungry usually when I start getting cranky for no reason. Sometimes I’ll here my stomach growling, and those two combined pretty much let me now it’s time to eat or snack

  20. andee says

    I usually don’t let myself get to the point where I’m light headed and my stomach is about to eat itself. When this happens, I know I will almost end up overeating because I am so hungry I just keep eating and don’t let the food settle. When the food does settle, I’m overly full. I try to eat something every couple of hours to keep my blood sugar up and avoid this type of situation

  21. says

    hunger for me is when my stomach feels empty and i know its been hours since a meal. I try and wait it out to see if I am hungry, but when I am at work I just try and eat every 4 hours because its so strenuous ( i am a server at a busy restaurant) I never wait until I am ravenous tho..that sucks! AS for “Fullness”, I try and asses how full I am, and if its comfortable full, then I will stop eating…I hate feeling uncomfortable or the fat full, so I make sure to stop eating when I am in the middle…..there will always be food and I will always be hungry again, so I know I can stop eating and wait.

  22. says

    My first post so first up, I love your blog!
    I admire your courage to tackle the Intuitive Eating thing, I’m too much of a coward myself – because I don’t only eat when I’m hungry, but mainly when I’m bored (all day at work….) or stressed. I do know if I let it go too long before eating I can sometimes get wobbly and light-headed (and then I eat garbage…. not literally!!!) Most of the time I eat to an internal schedule so it doesn’t get that far. The list of symptoms in your post sound like symptoms of more than a bit hungry to me – I’d avoid waiting that long to retain some hope of self-control. I think the worst I generally get would be slight gnawing sensation in my stomach – and then I act quickly before anything bad can happen to me 😉

  23. says

    I know I’m hungry when I get irritated easily and my stomach starts growling. For me, I have to eat right away or I snap at people. My husband even jokes with me and asks me if it’s “feeding time” if I am cranky with him.

  24. lauraunfiltered says

    Anne Marie’s comment made me laugh…

    I get the tummy rumbles when I am hungry…..but it’s hard for me to tell when I am full. Sometimes I won’t eat enough and I will have to go back for a snack, like an apple or fruit, and then other times I get the I am so-stuffed-I-made-myself-sick feeling.

  25. says

    Hmmm… I find this really hard. Most of the time my actual hunger only lasts for a few minutes. This normally feels like and empty feeling and my stomach growls! Then this goes away and I don’t feel hungry at all. I just feel a bit tired and a bit irritable. Then I know I should probably eat something.

    Just now i’m making sure though that my hunger is not actually dehydration. The two can often be confused. SO I’m trying to drink water when I feel hungry, if the hunger doesn’t go away then I know i’m hungry and not thirsty.

  26. Laura E says

    A lot of times if it has been over 2 hours since I last ate I can feel that my stomach is “empty” and I’m not sure if this is weird but I’ll make my stomach stick out and it will kind of “shift” or make a small noise and that’s when I know I should eat because I will be getting hungry soon.

  27. says

    i usually know i’m hungry when i have an empty feeling/growling in my stomach- but i also look at how long its been since i last ate- if its been 3-4 hours depending on the size of my last meal/snack i can usually tell if its really hunger or just boredom. i try to drink a glass of water first too, to see if its just thirst or real hunger. I also ask myself if i am hungry for real food or just something sweet- normally if its something sweet i figure its just a craving and try to hold out.

    fullness- usually food just doesn’t taste as good any more. i usually try to ask myself 1/2 way through my meal if i am still hungry or just eating to clean my plate. also when i start to feel a fullness in my stomach i will stop for a few minutes and access my hunger and see if i want to keep going. a lot of times i will remind myself how i don’t like to be overly full and this will help me keep from overeating.

  28. says

    i normally eat on time.. But i think when i don’t eat enough, or am missing something… i feel like im shivering..but am not..and my heart feels like its beating fast.. im not sure what those symptoms are, but after i eat something, i feel better.. who knows? :)

  29. says

    I DON’T know when I’m hungry! Like you, my hunger/fullness signals are “broken” at the moment, but we can fix them! Until I can learn to truly honor my body and hunger cues, I try to stick to three meals and two snacks a day. I am beginning to recognize signs of real hunger, but I agree that it’s important to help my body along with scheduled and planned meals. Sometimes I am better able to discern my hunger cues than others, but I have to listen REALLY carefully–it’s hard work! Good luck sweetie :)

  30. says

    I might be late getting back to you on this, but I think about it all the time! Sometimes, I will feel it is “time” to eat because it has been a certain amount of time since my last meal/snack. But I don’t feel hungry. Then once I start thinking about that, I get little gnawing emptiness pains in my stomach! So I wonder, am I really hungry or did I convince myself I am hunry???

  31. says

    Hunger is a difficult thing for me as well. I’m pretty sure I suffer from hypoglycemia, so my stomach rarely growls when I’m hungry. I more often feel dizzy, faint, shaky & weak, irritable, and get short of breath. If it gets really bad I get heat flashes and sweaty. Occasionally my stomach will growl. My sister gets a weird “bubbling” in her throat when she’s hungry. I never understand it!

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