Go from Being Afraid of Hunger to Using it to Lose Weight

Up until 2010 I felt trapped when it was time to eat because I always focused on choosing meals that fit in my calorie budget and not ones that I actually enjoyed. I was listening to every diet expert that promised that if I ate no more than “x” number of calories, I would finally be slim.

I’d gotten so used to ignoring my hunger and the food I craved from being on low-calorie diets, that I would eat what I was supposed to eat and then turn around and eat all the food in my kitchen looking for the satisfaction that I would have gotten if I’d just eaten what I wanted in the first place when I got hungry.

So hunger became the enemy…and I eventually got tired of it because it wasn’t working for me anymore. I was afraid of letting go because counting calories was all I knew to do at the time…

Letting hunger lead instead of calorie budgets meant letting my body lead the way. It meant trusting my body to tell me what it needed and when it needed it, and hopefully, it meant that food and I could have a relationship based on my need to survive and not rigid control or overindulgence, as they say, eat to live not live to eat. But that idea was scary as hell.

It took me three years after that to find a tool to help me trust my body and my hunger with confidence and that’s what I’m going to share with you next. 

We’ve come to see hunger as the enemy of weight loss, but it isn’t and here’s why…

Feeling hungry doesn’t mean you’re bad at weight loss. Instead, it means you’re alive and your body is doing what it takes to keep you that way. It’s your body’s way of telling you to feed yourself and fuel your life and your epic goals.

I’ve also come to learn that hunger can also help you lose weight!

When you’re hungry, your stomach starts to growl—this is caused by the release of a hormone called grehlin (the hunger hormone).

Ignore the growling long enough and your hunger starts to feel like an emergency. You’ll go from being able to make a healthy decision, to not giving a crap about what’s in your meal as far as its chewable and can fill the empty space in your tummy.

Or you’ll do what I used to do and you’ll eat what’s on the “meal or calorie plan” and then eat everything else anyway.

But if you pay attention to your hunger signals, you can make the choice to feed yourself at just the right time. So you’ll:

  • make more healthy meal choices and stop before you overfeed yourself and have the opposite effect that you want.
  • be okay with eating some unhealthy foods that you love knowing that you’re eating them in portions that’ll still support your weight loss goal.

Here’s a tool I created to help you use hunger to lose weight

I originally discovered this tool in the book The Power of Full Engagement by James E. Loehr and Tony Schwartz. They call it The Hunger Scale, and it uses simple everyday words to help you identify when you should eat and when you should stop eating without using external portion control measures like calorie counting.

I retooled it into what I called The Hunger Matrix, and all that’s required to use it to lose weight is your attention

Here’s what the matrix looks like:

The Hunger Matrix - Team by EJ

To use it, pay attention to how you feel….and eat when you’re at a 4. This means that if you can say “I’m hungry and my stomach is growling”, and then it’s time to eat.

And while you’re eating, pay attention to how you feel. Once you can say “I feel satisfied and I’ve had enough to know that I’ve eaten”, at a 6, then it’s time to stop eating.

You might find it hard to use The Hunger Matrix at first…but it’s worth the effort because you’ll finally be able to manage your portions of both healthy and unhealthy food alike without having to carry awkward measuring tools in your purse. You’ll be using discrete tools you already carry with you every—your stomach, your brain, and your attention.

Now it’s time to take action

Your action today is simple…make a commitment to yourself to pay attention to your hunger using The Hunger Matrix over the next week.

It’ll help you lose weight by helping you eat the right portions of food, and some of that can be moderate portions of unhealthy foods you love. So you feel confident that you won’t be jeopardizing the hard work you’re doing regardless of what you eat.

Want to go deeper?

The Hunger Matrix is one of the tools that I share in Chapter 3 of Weight Loss for High Achievers to help you eat healthy anywhere! Along with the Hunger Matrix, I share:

  • The 2-Step 20-Minute Rule that allows you to feed your hunger with the right thing
  • How to tackle the top three things that keep high-achieving women like us struggling with uncontrollable cravings.

Weight Loss for High Achievers

Click the button below to get the book and dive deeper.


Photo by Philipe Cavalcante on Unsplash

Originally Published: August 2016; Updated: June 2018