I often get asked this question – and it’s very valid , because if Intuitive Eating is all about honouring your hunger/fullness, then what if you don’t feel hungry when you wake up?
I am always careful how I respond to this queries because given my history with food/eating and my understanding of eating disorders and just how sneaky that ‘ED voice’ can be, I want to make sure I am not justifying someone’s restrictive behaviour (ED, after all, can be incredibly manipulative).
note: even if you have not/do not struggle with an eating disorder, you can still have a bit of ED’s manipulative voice in your head – though it is not quite as extreme – this is what leads to disordered eating and the diet mentality. I suppose we could call it the “Disordered Eating Voice”.
So onto the question at hand:
What if you are not hungry for breakfast?
Our mothers, teachers, grandmothers, trainers, they all say the same thing: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
But what if you wake up and you just aren’t hungry? According to the Eating Guidelines you shouldn’t eat until your hunger levels are somewhere between a 2-4 (higher than that, and you should wait a bit, and you simply aren’t supposed to let it get to 1).
Here’s the thing: you need to start the day off with food.
It is true that breakfast helps kick-start your metabolism (and, no, I am not saying this as some ‘dieting tip’, I’m saying it because we need the metabolism to start-up at some point otherwise we’ll never eat!), so if we simply don’t eat it because we aren’t hungry, then it is (in my opinion/experience) often more likely that we won’t feel hungry later on in the day because our bodies will kick into ‘starvation mode’ (remember those days? Not fun.) This is when the body stops sending out hunger signals, and instead chooses to devour itself. Hmm…
It is difficult to determine the reason you are not hungry in the morning – some people are just not ‘morning eating’ people (note: this does not justify not eating in the morning) – however, I think this is more ‘habit’ than ‘nature’.
For me, I know that if I surpassed my comfortable ‘fullness’ levels the day before, I often won’t wake up hungry due to the excess ‘calories’ (which I did not count, by the way, but I simply am aware of their existence) from the night before. This, however, is not reason to simply ‘not eat’. Especially if you are like me and you have a history with anorexia or, even more so, bulimia – to overeat the day before and then ‘compensate’ by not eating breakfast the next morning (even if there are no ED intentions behind it) can very quickly lead to temptations back to old, unhealthy behaviours. So eating breakfast is a must!
So if you aren’t hungry, but you know you should eat breakfast anyways, what do you do?
When I find myself in this situation where I’m not feeling terribly hungry in the morning, but I am rushing out to work or class so I don’t have the option of ‘waiting it out’ for an hour or so, I don’t dive right into a stack of waffles covered with maple syrup (though on other occasions this is a delightful way to start the day!) instead, I turn to some of the following ‘lighter’ options – they still give me energy and kickstart my metabolism without giving me that ‘over full’ feeling (which we all know can trigger a binge day!)
- Smoothies! smoothies are great! You can fill them up with whatever you want – fruit, yoghurt, even raw vegetables (if you’re brave!) and they give a nice ‘fresh start’ to the day if all the processed foods from the night before and suddenly turning into your enemies!
- Yoghurt -Having a cup of yoghurt with a bit of cereal or fruit can also be a great way to kickstart the day without leaving you feeling weighed-down.
- Green Tea & Fruit Juice- this is not something I would recommend on a regular basis; however, on days when I am simply not hungry and I need the caffeine kick, too, I will simply fill my plastic Starbucks travel cup with about 2/3 Green tea and 1/3 fruit juice (or 50/50 depending on how I feel) and hit the road. This option is great if you are in a rush BUT please note that I only do this if I know that I will have easy access to food sometime in the next couple hours when my hunger sets in because there is NOT a lot of caloric content in this, and definitely not enough to get me through to lunch.
So those are just a few of my ‘light breakfast’ ideas. Again, please understand I am not offering these as an ‘every day’ thing, nor am I recommending them as some sort of ‘weight loss’ trick – these are simply solutions for those days when you do wake up not hungry enough to eat a full breakfast, but still wanting to ensure you start the day with something rather than nothing.
It is also smart to take a snack with you in case your hunger kicks in sooner than you expect – as many times once I eat breakfast, my metabolism does reset to normal and I do crave my mid-morning snack.
I hope you found this helpful! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask! I will do my best to offer my tips/suggestions.
~ Lauren B.
Note: please keep in mind that I am not a professional nutritionist, nor have I studied nutrition beyond my investigations into eating disorder recovery & Intuitive Eating; therefore, my opinions/suggestions are not to be taken as an official ‘Nutrition plan’ nor are they to replace an eating plan for those in recovery from eating disorders.