Are You Meal Hungry or Snack Hungry?

Hi guys! I’m popping in today with something I’ve been meaning to discuss for awhile now: remembering that there is a difference between meal hungry and snack hungry, and that you should honor that!

Something I work often with my AnneTheRD clients on is giving themselves permission to eat when their body vs. a clock (or a calorie tracker) tells them it’s time to eat.

Even though society basically made up meal timing, for many people there is a tendency to really try to stick to those specific mealtimes and meal sizes, even if they are hungry before (or after) them. I see clients doing this often in the afternoon – trying to “wait it out” until dinner, even though they are really hungry – and occasionally in the morning, too, waiting for lunch. You guys know I’m a big fan of intuitive and mindful eating, but it will go haywire if you get too hungry. Think about the last time you were too hungry – were you able to sit down and calmly have a mindful meal? Probably not. Getting too hungry is likely going to set you up to overeat, maybe even binge – and at the very least it will increase your stress! Work stress with the addition of hunger stress = no good. 

In addition to staying on top of your hunger levels and having snacks so you don’t find yourself too hungry before a meal, though, another thing to consider when you find yourself hungry is this: am I snack hungry or meal hungry? Meaning, will I feel satisfied by a snack right now, or do I need to have an actual meal, regardless of the time?

Pregnancy has been a good lesson in particular in this for me because I can’t just go on autopilot and do what I normally do – it’s forced me to revisit my hunger cues and be more mindful and checked in if I don’t want to get too hungry. Some days, my normal routine in slightly larger quantities works, other days, not so much, and it’s important to honor that.

For example, on Monday morning, I had my microwave banana oatmeal at home before heading into the city to work at my coworking space for the day. Normally that oatmeal (with lots of toppings!) holds me over until lunch with just a snack, and I vary the size/amount of the snack based on how hungry I get in between breakfast and lunch. But Monday was one of those days that for whatever reason, I was MEAL hungry at 10:30 a.m., not snack hungry. A snack was not going to cut it – I needed something more. So rather than trying to have a snack anyway and wait it out until lunch feeling unsatisfied and irritable, I went out and bought myself an egg salad sandwich. It was delicious and just what I needed.

I was still hungry for an actual lunch a few hours later, but even if I wasn’t, that would have been okay too – I wasn’t “spoiling” my lunch by eating earlier – I just ate when my body needed it. Did anyone else grow up with the whole “don’t spoil your dinner!” thing? While I’m sure that was well intentioned, I feel like it made people nervous to eat in the afternoons if they were hungry. I always tell clients they shouldn’t worry about spoiling their dinners; if they aren’t very hungry by dinner because they’ve snacked a lot, they can just eat however much their body wants at dinnertime – no big deal! Or, maybe they have “dinner” in the afternoon and a snack at night – that’s okay too! Whatever works, my friends. I’ve been known to have a snack on the way out the door to meet people for dinner – Matt thinks this is weird, but I’d rather show up pretty hungry and ready to calmly enjoy dinner vs. hangry and irritable and ready to destroy anything put in front of me. 🙂

So – just a reminder to listen to your body rather than trying to fit into some arbitrary idea about what is acceptable meal/snack size or timing.

I’d love to hear how you’ve been working on being more intuitive and mindful lately – feel free to share in the comments! 🙂

More intuitive + mindful eating related posts from me:

  • How to Eat Intuitively | A Guide to Mindful Eating
  • Because Being Healthy Means Not ALWAYS Being Healthy
  • Why You Should Throw Away Your Scale
  • Why I Don’t Recommend Whole30 (controversial, but I stand by what I said)

Recent posts I’ve loved from other bloggers that are also intuitive/mindful eating and self-care related:

  • What are you really hungry for? – via Kath Eats
  • How I became the eater I want to be – via Hummusapien
  • On blaming your body + tolerating being bored – via Immaeatthat

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *