Hunger Pangs: How To Debug Your Eating Signals | BodyPhi

Hunger Pangs: How To Debug Your Eating Signals


Sep 17
hunger pangs

Struggling to reach your physique goals?

Feeling “true” hunger is a complete game-changer.

If you’re reading this article – you aren’t hungry and may possibly NEVER have been!

Men’s idea of hunger is no more than a collection of habits, distractions and feel-better tactics.

Now I’m not going to suggest establishing true hunger and eating solely based on its cues is easy. It’s a skill that takes time to learn, but the rewards are game-changing in life.

I too have absolutely destroyed anything and everything my cupboard had to offer on a Sunday, not because I was truly hungry, but because I was bored and it was "just there".

In fact let’s talk about true hunger real quick.

Living in the West, food options are endless, available at a click of a button and costing pennies – we don’t experience true physical hunger.

We think we’re hungry when:

  • It’s 10am and that’s mid-morning snack time.
  • We’re with mates and see them digging in.

or we eat to temporarily mask greater issues we have with ourselves and our lives.

Reality check: you aren’t hungry.

distracted eating

What is hunger?

Physical hunger is a very simple mechanism. Your body sends hunger signals when it’s low on fuel – you supply fuel in by eating some energizing food and all’s good.

A true hunger signal cannot be controlled; it is instinctive.

However, due to the abundance of food, social reasons and bad habits – we shortcircuit our body’s natural system by eating BEFORE we receive any hunger signal. In some cases by hours – if not by days!

Did you know it takes roughly 12–24 hours to experience true hunger pangs following a meal and studies suggest that well-fed, healthy individuals can live for 3 weeks to as long as 10 weeks without food! [1]

Now of course I’m not suggesting you do this as looking better naked and simply “surviving” are wildly different goals.

The point I’m making here is: Thinking you “need” to eat every two hours to function is completely in your head – not a physical sensation.

Here’s where most guys go wrong …

I Have A Big Appetite!

Most guys idea of appetite is way off the mark. Appetite is the DESIRE to eat – your mind and eyes anticipating eating food.

But unlike hunger, appetite can be ignored.

Your appetite is there 24/7 and can be the size of a house because it’s a mind game. Just the mere thought of delicious food can have you drooling.

appetite does not equal hunger

WINNER MINDSET: Appetite = Want | Hunger = Need | Appetite≠ Hunger

Your hunger signals need some serious debugging and until you regularly experience true hunger – you’ll never get a handle on long-term fat loss.

Having coached hundreds of guys I’ve witnessed these faulty signals time and time again and now I see discovering true physical hunger to be akin to a hurdle race.

The three major hurdles to overcome are:

  • Happy
  • Habit
  • Haze

And as you’ll see – none of these are remotely related to real hunger.

Until you can recognise true hunger - you’ll never lose fat and keep it off. #TrueHunger #BodyPhi

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Happy Hurdle

You eat to get an instant pleasure kick, briefly distracting you from a feeling such as stress, sadness or boredom.

Foods like donuts, cakes, cookies, ice cream and pizza are designed to “light up” or stimulate the frontal lobe of the brain. The same part of the brain activated during pleasurable activities such as drinking alcohol, having sex or doing drugs.

Is it any wonder we reach for these feel-good choices when we are feeling down in the dumps or want to escape an uncomfortable mood? It makes perfect sense. Our bodies are looking for that hit of happiness. [2]

This is all well and good but guess what happens when you eat these types of food on a regular basis?

Eventually you need more and more of it to get the same hit - bad news for your waistline and fat-loss progress.

Lowe – a researcher studying this phenomenon coined the term nutritional hedonic adaptation [3] and I quote:

“The more delicious food you eat, the harder it is to resist. But the actual hit, the reward you get from the food, diminishes, so you want to eat more to get the same reward – but when you do you further reduce the value of the food and further strengthen the signal for the food.”

The media coins the term "emotional eating” – and I know you dudes think it doesn’t affect you, but it does. I’ve seen it countless times.

It might take the form of a pizza or some wings and a few beers rather than tubs of ice cream – but the trigger of being unhappy or escaping a mood is the same

It’s not just “something for the chicks"

Habitually eating foods designed to stimulate our feel-good centers causes natural whole foods to taste bland – making fat loss a lot harder.

habit eating

Habit Hurdle

You eat purely out of habit based on a set time or set routine.

  • Do you feel like the meal isn't complete without something sweet?
  • Do you always pick up that Snickers at the petrol station?
  • Always find yourself eating around 4pm?

All these are simply habits – nothing to do with hunger.

You experience a trigger or cue to eat (even when not hungry) and like the classic Pavlovian dog salivating at the sound of a bell – you automatically reach for {insert any favorite food}.

Our body loves routine and regimen, but these food routines can wreck our weight-control efforts. If you snack at around 4pm, you will always find yourself reaching for food around then.

However, this cycle can be broken – with persistence and desire you can retrain yourself with better choices.

hunger habit hedonism

Haze Hurdle

You are focused on another task, yet munching at the same time - eating blurs into a haze.

It’s first thing in the morning, you're barely awake and your coffee machine has been switched on without any thought whatsoever.

Breakfast is a bowl of cereal, a couple slices of toast with jam and a large orange juice. However, on this particular morning something in the paper has caught your eye, your social media has blown up overnight and you’re desperately trying to remember if you e-mailed back that client that is waiting on a response.

Focusing on every other task but what is going in your mouth – you consume hundreds more calories than needed [4] and that belt buckle ain’t going down any time soon. 

I’ve been there too – and it’s a crappy way of piling on the calories for no good reason other than you weren't concentrating.

Other activities you might engage in that haze-hurdle disasters?

  • Driving
  • Gaming
  • Facebooking at lunch time #ThumbScroll
  • Catching up with mates at a party
  • Surfing the net

Be present and purposeful when you eat. #Mindfulness #BodyPhi

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Oh no! I do that too!

How the hell do we tackle these hunger hurdles and make fat loss effortless when the hurdles stack together so perfectly?

Habit + Happy = Petrol station post road rage …

That car that cut you up with the hot girl in the passenger seat laughing at you, yea I know how you're feeling.

You need to stop for petrol, but this time you’re in a f*<king rage. The kingsize Lion bar you habitually buy turns into two kingsize Lion bars and a cold fizzy drink.

You’ve just smashed back ~800 calories you really didn’t need. Not going to help your fat loss now is it ...

Happy + Haze = Stressed at work …

Crazy tight deadlines, it’s Friday and your work colleague has brought in Krispy Kreme’s – need I say more?

Whereas normally you might have been able to control yourself with one Krispy Kreme and call it a day, due to the high levels of stress and the letting yourself of the hook “because it’s Friday” you end up smashing six or seven.

Some quick maths will teach us that one Krispy Kreme donut isn't the problem with only ~250/300 calories a go. Seven, however, ok now we have a problem.

Enter the “Fuck it affect” #StartOnMonday

Which you probably will, but guess what? Friday roles around again, and again and again. Same scenario, same trigger, same outcome. Something needs to change!

Habit + Haze = At the flicks …

You're at the cinema. You’ve already polished off more than half of the medium-sized popcorn before the trailers even finish.

There’s no way you were hungry for all of that popcorn. You simply ate it because you were distracted by the screen. Your hand coming to your mouth was like it wasn’t even being controlled by your brain, it was just “happening”.

Habit + Haze + Happy = Dinner watching depressing news report …

Where do I even start with this one, so many cues to overeat. Your team have lost again #Cantona, dinner has finished and you want something sweet, and you're distracted watching the box. You got no chance, get that Ben and Jerry’s over here.

As you can see, we eat for a number of different reasons other than true hunger. If we nip these in the bud early on, your whole fat-loss journey will become that much easier.


A fantastic tool in discovering true hunger is intermittent fasting – in it’s simplest form just pushing breakfast back a few hours.

You will find that urges to eat come and go in waves – and that’s all they are – just your mind playing tricks on you. When true hunger hits, it’s unlike anything else – a real physical sensation in your body.

It’s important to “live” with the feeling for a bit before carrying on with your day. Lock it into your memory for future reference so you can recall and compare with a hunger hurdle.

Once you’ve a better handle on the feeling of true hunger – every time you're about to eat - take a step back, recall what true hunger felt like for you and question what’s really going on.

Ask yourself – “Am I really hungry or is this a hunger hurdle?”


True Hunger: Physical: Instinctive sensation in the body – rarely felt in the West as we’re constantly shortcircuiting the signal.

Appetite: Nothing to do with real hunger – just a mind game and can be controlled.

Weight Control: Impossible to maintain if you don’t have a grip on your true hunger signals.

Hurdle Awareness: Just recognising the hurdles exist is a MASSIVE step forward to a healthier relationship with food.



Man up and find another way to deal with your unhappiness. Make a list of non-eating activities that make you happy such as:

• Reading

• Watching funny videos

• Catching up with best mates

• Social Media

• Podcasts

When you find yourself reaching for cake as a short-term mood fix – get out your list and boost your mood the no-calorie way. #HappyList


A great way to clear the habit hurdle is to list your times and places you encounter it – then come up with an alternative course of action ahead of time commit to retraining yourself.

Let’s take the petrol-station example: instead of buying a Snickers – you buy a bottle of water.

You’re here to fill up your car NOT your face – would you rather be better hydrated or have bigger moobs!

I’m not saying changing your habits will happen overnight, but with consistency and commitment you will clear the habit hurdle. #ConsistencyIsKey


Multitasking is the death of true hunger – focus on that one thing at a time. When you are eating, ONLY EAT – be present and savour your food.

Whatever your daily tasks may be – remain fully focused and NOT simultaneously aimlessly snacking. #Mindfulness