Q+A: Timing and Hunger Ques


I am in recovery for an eating disorder and in my final stages!

I have been working (for a while now) on intuitive eating. And I tend to focus on eating every three to four hours but if I feel hungry before three hours I usually ignore my hunger and wait because I shouldn’t be hungry at that time… (right?)

Furthermore, I sometimes struggle to honor my hunger. So what should I do to not obsess so much about time?!

I am always dependent on the clock so that I know how many hours have passed. Should I try ignoring it for a while and see what happens?


Congratulations on being in the final stages of recovery–and for simply being “in recovery” at all!

I understand your dilemma regarding timing and thinking you shouldn’t need to eat so often and thus wanting to wait at least several hours between meals; however, I would still say this goes against the concepts of Intuitive Eating, which include eating when you are hungry, full stop. Not “when you are hungry…if it’s been at least 3 hours since your last meal.”

So I think rather than looking at wether you should be watching the clock or not, we should be looking at why you may be hungry so often. It is possible that you are not eating enough at each meal. According to the Eating Guidelines, there is a scale from 1-10 of hunger levels. 1 means you are famished, 10 means you are stuffed full (for example, after a binge). Ideally, you never want to let yourself get to a 1 level of hunger nor do you want to get to a 10 level of full.

Although it varies from person to person, ideally you want to eat when you’re between a 2-4 for hunger and stop when you are between a 6-8. If you find you are hungry within an hour or two, that likely means you did not fill yourself up enough, or that the food you did eat wasn’t wholesome enough (note: I didn’t say it was “bad” food, simply that it didn’t contain enough nutrients/sustenance).

I know for me, when I was recovering from my ED and was in the early stages of IE I found it difficult to know just how full I should be because I’d spent so much time undereating and even starving myself. To begin with, even a 5 level of “full” felt like too much.

You have to play around with it a bit–trial and error–and determine not only what level of fullness feels comfortable to you, but also what level keeps you satisfied for a reasonable amount of time (3-4 hours). Each meal should get you through to the next meal, sometimes with a small snack in between (for example, I always find myself needing a mid-afternoon snack between lunch and dinner).

One thing I did that was helpful was track my meals. I had a table that stated the time, my hunger level, what I ate, my fullness after eating, and then my feelings. I know sometimes for those of us who have gone through an ED the idea of having an eating log brings back memories of calorie counting; however, if you are comfortable doing this and are able to realize the two are not the same, I think it will be beneficial to you. It will also let you track what fullness level allows you to hit that 3-4hrs mark between meals.

Also, I recommend seeking guidance from either a nutritionist or an eating disorder therapist. As I always state, I am not a health professional, and can only speak from personal experience, research, and what I have learned from the professionals I have received help from. What I do know for sure is having a professional monitor, guide, and hold you accountable is invaluable during this process.

All the best! xx

Lauren B.


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2 thoughts on “Q+A: Timing and Hunger Ques”

  1. Thank-you for a great post! I tried eating what I thought my body needed when I had lunch today instead of weighing or measuring my food, which is still dieting even if I’m allowing myself to eat foods that are not low in calories. It was perfect! So much of my anxiety around food is dissolving because eating for hunger and appetite makes me feel safe. I am eating healthy mostly because I have limited funds and if the “good stuff” is expensive, store-bought cookies and the like are even more so. And I really don’t miss them. It’s not that I don’t allow myself to eat them; if I’m at a party, I will indulge because I LOOOVE icing cookies and I’m not buying them at present. Geneen Roth talked about eating what makes your body feel good in her recent free phone call Q&A and I’ve started eating that way since. Most of the time. As I’ve said, I will eat the “other stuff” if I really want it. But I seem to want it less and less. THIS from a sugar addict??? It never fails to amaze me that what I really want is good health and that when I make healthy eating a choice rather than a “should”, I usually end up moving toward health. I’ve rambled far from the topic but I do want to thank you for your insight. Up until today, food and fear was my experience. I am letting go of the Madison Avenue ad execs, whom I allowed to “shame” me for having curves and wrinkles and cellulite. And it feels wonderful! (You also mentioned letting go of what size your body will be; in other words, our bodies know what’s a healthy weight for each of us. IF we stop trying to mess with them. Right on, friend!). I read about some models and actresses and their disordered eating and know how destructive restrictive diets were for me until I finally decided that I couldn’t diet anymore. But I realize I’m still dieting if I’m weighing and measuring. There is so much wisdom in what you say. I just needed to be reminded that authentic hunger and the fulfillment of it will never let me down. And that my BODY knows my “perfect” weight, not my mind. For this I say, T HANK-YOU!


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