Hunger is not the Enemy

by Katie Schmidt, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach

We are a youth-obsessed, fad diet-crazed culture that fears hunger. We’re led to believe our hunger must be suppressed, controlled, reined in. It’s the scapegoat for anything from aging and weight concerns to emotional eating and body image challenges.

Hunger is a protective, survival mechanism. Yet we fight it, trick it, and ignore it. And by doing so, not only do we trigger a stress response in the body, elevating cortisol levels, reducing blood flow to the gut and weakening digestive capacity, but we also send ourselves a powerful message that our body cannot be trusted. This cascade of events disconnects us, physiologically and emotionally, from our body’s inherent wisdom.

If we did take time to befriend our body and hunger, we might be surprised what we learn. For starters, bringing a curious, non-judgmental awareness could open the door for self-reflection:

Why am I hungry now?

When did I last eat?

What’s required my energy and emotional attention lately?

What food rule or belief is preventing me from eating right now?

  • An honest response to these questions could lead to one or several insights:
  • We’re undereating; dieting through meals and snacking through the day
  • We need more carbohydrates, fat and/or a fun contrast of flavors and textures in meals
  • Eating times are spaced too far apart, leading to primal hunger and a sense of feeling out of control
  • We aren’t making space to pause in the day, to breath and check-in
  • Days are on autopilot with little time to cook and sit down for meals
  • Hunger naturally fluctuates day to day, depending on hormones, stress, activity level, etc.
  • We could benefit from mindfulness and self-compassion tools to recognize and effectively process negative thought patterns that keep us stuck in dieting or emotional eating habits


Honoring hunger means embracing the fact we have an appetite. It’s one of the first steps in cultivating a healthy relationship with food and body. Consciously eating — without tricking, bargaining or judging – grounds and calms; it regulates metabolism, stabilizes blood sugar, feeds the gut microbiome, fortifies the blood, supports detoxification and strengthens immunity.

So….what if we flipped the script and starting saying and believing: 

“It’s wonderful to have an appetite!”

This is a true statement in fact, because appetite:

  • drives us to eat, to regulate systems in our body, and therefore to survive as a species, and thrive as an individual
  • sparks joy and excitement to cook, to connect, to celebrate with others
  • allows us to ENJOY food

By flipping the script, we begin to see our eating habits and thought patterns in a new light. It’s amazing the freedom, lightness and clarity my clients project when this happens. They recognize eating well is not about discipline, willpower or restraint. But rather, identifying the rigid, all-or-nothing food rules that have kept them stuck for so long, challenging conventional dietary norms that promote “DO” and “DON’T” lists, and learning body awareness and mindfulness skills to better recognize and meet their needs from the inside out.

Interested in a learning more about Katie and her practice, or scheduling a complimentary consultation with her? Email to be connected! As an added bonus this month, click here for Katie’s Vegan Apple Cornbread Cake recipe – Enjoy!