swimming hunger

Hunger Cues

What are hunger cues?

How often do you eat out of habit?

How often do you eat out of boredom?

How often do you CONTINUE eating even though you recognize that you’re not hungry, or you’re eating out of boredom?

One of the big things that contributed to my weight gain in my 20’s was the fact that I had zero concept of “listening to my body.” I had no idea what hunger cues were because I really just ate all the time. Instead of listening to my body I ate out of habit and routine.

I was never hungry because I ate all of the time. I never let myself get hungry. I had no idea what real hunger cues were.

Journaling helps. Writing down what your body is feeling helps to recognize patterns and decipher the difference between real hunger and boredom hunger.  Did I just have a fight with a friend? Was I feeling overwhelmed at work? Did something happen to trigger my desire to eat instead of actually being hungry?

Facing the issue directly instead of eating my feelings is something that I learned the hard way. It’s gotten easier with time and practice. Once I realized that the world was not going to end if I confronted the issue, or person, I felt empowered to take control of my life again. I didn’t HAVE to eat to feel better.

That was a big step for me. I was definitely an emotional eater and used food to stuff my feelings deep inside.

As I lost the weight and started exercising I started to recognize different things about my body. I felt what real hunger was. And guess what? I didn’t die if I felt real hunger. Subconsciously we know we need to eat to survive and if those hunger pains appear we panic. It’s all natural. But recognizing that it is NOT the end of the world and that having a small, healthy snack is all I need keeps me from overeating all of the time.

I am so in tune with my body and it’s cues now that I’m athletic. I can tell when I’m truly hungry. I can recognize signs that I’m crashing.



There are different types of hunger for me:

The Running Hunger – This one was a brutal lesson to learn. Running a decent amount of miles each week triggered a different kind of hunger. I was suddenly craving foods I didn’t really eat. I was a vegetarian for 12 years and I slowly started eating certain meats when I got healthy. But when I started running I craved a big, juicy steak and nothing could satisfy that craving BUT steak. I gave in and never looked back.

The Swimming Hunger – I wrote about this last week when I said that swimming causes a hunger like no other. I don’t use the word “famished” lightly when I describe the Swimming Hunger. It’s a crash. I am famished. FEED ME NOW. The hunger cues are SCREAMING at me. Research has told me that thermodynamics (the cooler temperature of the pool) might be playing a big part in this equation.

The Cycling Hunger – When Michael and I were doing long bike rides training for Reach the Beach last year I fueled properly. I ate GUs and protein bars along the way, about every hour or two of the ride. This helped a lot. The Cycling Hunger was a delayed hunger. It was something that would appear after the ride was over, and often the next day instead. I was burning a lot of calories (1500-2500 a ride) too.

Reading about Intuitive Eating changed my perspective a bit. While I will always count my calories in order to maintain my weight loss, I do take some of the concepts of IE into my routine. I’m doing much better with listening to my body and my hunger cues. For example, during the week I typically eat a snack mid-morning (an apple, or banana). Lately I’ve been listening to my body and not eating a snack on days that I ate a bigger breakfast. I really wasn’t hungry. I didn’t need that apple. It was very liberating to listen to my body.

The Hunger-Satiety Rating Scale” is from Why Weight? A Guide to Ending Compulsive Eating by Geneen Roth.

Satiety 10 = Stuffed to the point of feeling sick
9 = Very uncomfortably full, need to loosen your belt
8 = Uncomfortably full, feel stuffed
7 = Very full, feel as if you have overeaten
6 = Comfortably full, satisfied
Neutral 5 = Comfortable, neither hungry nor full
4 = Beginning signals of hunger
3 = Hungry, ready to eat
2 = Very hungry, unable to concentrate
Hungry 1 = Starving, dizzy, irritable

Eating in the Dark:


This was a really interesting video clip about food. They discuss visual cues for eating, how to know when you’re full, and eating portion sizes. As your stomach gets full, it sends cues to your brain to let it know when to stop eating. When we mindlessly shovel food into our mouth without these cues we overeat.

You tend to eat less if you can see it, slow down, don’t eat in front of the TV and take your time.

QUESTION: Are you aware of your hunger cues? Do you listen to them?

It Helps to Know a Guy

One of the best pizza joints in Portland is Apizza Scholls over on SE Hawthorne.

The place is popular. It’s not uncommon to show up on a Tuesday night and have to wait quite a long time to be seated. They also stop making pizzas after a certain time each night so if you don’t get in and get on the list they stop seating people! Weird, I know. It’s almost like a hot club with a line to get in and a bouncer at the door choosing who gets to enter.

Guess what? Michael knows a guy. In fact he grew up with a guy that works there so we almost always get in no matter what. Last night was no different. He texted his friend and asked if we could get a table at 7:30 and he said sure. We arrived to a crowd of people in the entryway — so many we could barely move to get to the front counter — and Michael found his friend. They had stopped taking names for tables because there were so many people waiting to get a table. If I had to guess I’d say at least 20 people? Maybe more?

3 minutes later Michael and I were seated and we had beers waiting for us. Talk about VIP treatment! I got a pint of the Anchor Steam beer. It was light and fruity (similar in taste to a Blue Moon or Hefeweizen). Delish.

We ordered a half Sausage and Peppers pizza and the other half was the pineapple, ham and onion for me! It’s my new favorite combo on pizza.

Yum yum! It was a nice night. It had been too long since I’d had Apizza Scholls. It was a nice treat after such a hard workout and a busy day. I enjoyed two slices of pizza and restrained myself from eating a third. They are huge pieces, thin crust but still huge.

I stuck with only one beer. Despite being busy at the restaurant we got our pie super fast. Michael and is friend caught up a bit and then we headed home. It was a nice night. And it definitely helped “to know a guy.”


The moment I opened my eyes on Sunday morning I knew I was going to hurt when I crawled out of bed. My back was tight. I know exactly which weight machine did it, too–the ab machine I use. My arms and shoulders also ached from lifting weights. I knew swimming would be a challenge.

Before I headed to the pool I started dinner and put it in the crockpot (recipe to follow tomorrow). I got to the pool later than normal but enjoyed a lane by myself for my workout. I was SORE. I would classify today’s swim as a “recovery” swim instead of a workout. I took it easy and let my muscles stretch. It definitely helped remedy the soreness I was feeling (so did the hot tub afterward).

One thing about swimming that always baffles me is the HUNGER it creates. I always eat before I swim (sometimes just a snack, sometimes a meal) yet half way through my swim I’m almost always hungry. It’s strange how different activities can create such a different bodily response. One 50 minute swim session for me creates the equivalent hunger of a 5 hour bike ride or 7 mile run. Strange, huh?

Meal Planning Attempt

I’ve never been the type to Meal Plan for the week. I don’t know why because it’s a concept that would make my life a lot easier I think. My wish is to cut down on how often I go to the grocery store.

Sunday: Flemish Beef Stew

Monday: Blackened Salmon, Caesar Salad

Tuesday: Leftover Beef Stew

Wednesday: Nachos

Thursday: Black Bean Quesadillas

Friday: Bacon and Jalapeno Turkey Burgers, Sweet Potato Fries

Saturday:  Quick Coq au Vin

QUESTION: Tell me about your hunger. What activity causes the most hunger in you? And do you meal plan? Any tips?