Somebody once told me that they “eat only when hungry.” This concept, which at first brush might seem inconsequential, is perhaps a little more intriguing when you consider the following points.

Eating when hungry implies greater self-awareness and self-regulation. These are good features to have in domains other than eating, like in exercising self-control and building good habits and the ability to self-monitor.

It’s likely that our hunter-forager ancestors, living without agriculture, refrigeration, and transport, would often feel hungry simply because food was not available. Or they would cycle through periods of abundance and scarcity in food. Both are situations that many people in today’s modern world no longer must contend with.

Do animals, and our less-evolved ancestors, only eat when hungry? Is this a basic animal instinct with positive survival or other impacts that modern humans eschew, to any detriment?

On the other hand, eating only when hungry implies that hunger would be a daily occurrence. Does hunger create any downsides on other aspects of our lives? For example is there any physiological truth to being “hangry” – hungry and angry?

And on the flip side, eating when not hungry suggests we are eating for reasons other than satiating your hunger. For example, we might instead be eating in response to negative states of mind (boredom, stress, sadness), or to fit with social norms (“it’s lunch time!”, “everybody else is eating, so I should follow”) or for curiosity and discovery (“what does that taste like?”).

It’s not obvious that all these non-hunger factors are good reasons to be eating. Perhaps some of these reasons mean we are “living to eat” (a negative thing?) rather than “eating to live” (a better thing?)

Eating only when hungry perhaps also means you stop eating when no longer hungry. This might mean eating less than a full portion when you are not in control of the portion size, for example when eating at a restaurant. For those wishing to lose weight, or maintain weight, this could be a good thing.

In summary, there seem to be a few issues here following the concept to “eat only when hungry”. The topic seems worthy of some research and thinking (and experimenting).

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