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Over 35 Years of Eating Disorder Specialty Practice
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Eating Disorder Specialist

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Learning to Listen to Your Body

By Abigail Natenshon, MA, LCSW

One of the most important ways for you to become a healthy eater is to learn to listen closely to what your body tells you, to recognize what it needs and desires in order to feel fit and comfortable. When you listen long and hard enough to your body, you will begin to differentiate sensations and feelings, and to become aware of your own capacity to experience and react to the sensations of hunger and satiety.

Your body will not lead you astray if you know what it needs and can respond appropriately. If you are capable of taking good care of your body, it will perform well for you.

How well do you listen to your body?

  • Do you know when you are hungry?
  • Do you know when you are satisfied?
  • Do you know when you are full?
  • Do you know if you are too fat, too thin or at a healthy weight?
  • Are you unduly preoccupied with your body shape and size?
  • When you experience cravings, do you know what to eat to satisfy your body’s needs?
  • Do you know how to portion out proper amounts of food for your body?
  • Do you feel frightened of food or of becoming fat?
  • Do you feel guilty after you eat?
  • Are you aware of what you are feeling?
  • Do you know when you are eating to quiet your nerves or to soothe your sadness?
  • Do you know how to ask others for what you need or want?
  • Are you used to establishing goals for yourself and accomplishing those goals?


By learning to listen to your hunger and satiety cues, you’ll also be getting good practice in becoming responsive to your feelings in general, as they relate to all areas of your existence. Your feelings are guideposts, coping tools, indicators of what you need in life, when, why, and how to go about securing those needs. Through accessing your feelings, you will learn how to make healthy demands of yourself and others as well as healthy choices, to recognize and enforce boundaries between yourself and others, and to resolve conflicts effectively.

Listening to yourself will help you to solve problems effectively and eat responsibly.

The problem is how to achieve good health and fitness.
The solution is to give your body nutritious and varied foods regularly, in the form of meals and snacks, and to remain active in your daily lifestyle.

The problem is how much to give your body.
The solution is just what your body needs to feel satiated, no more, no less. You must learn to listen to and to hear your body’s signals. It will let you know what it needs. If you cannot yet rely on the accuracy of your body’s cues, you need to learn to eat nutritious and healthful meals three times a day with at least two snacks.

The problem is when you feel that your internal gauges or perceptions of self are not functioning accurately, and not giving you adequate signals.
The solution is to attempt to make your next meal more nutritious (including all the food groups) and to never skip a meal. Set small goals for yourself and gradually work your way towards accomplishing them, one step at a time.

The problem is to help yourself when you feel “stuck,” or unable to achieve what you know you would like or need to accomplish.
The solution
is to solicit help from loved ones or professionals.  A nutritionist can assist you to devise a meal plan containing the foods you most enjoy eating in the appropriate amounts. If you have a problem following such a plan, you may do well to consult a therapist with a specialty in handling food and eating-related dysfunctions.


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