According to the countless weight management commercials and advertisements that we see on television and in print, hunger is our enemy. Hunger has to be controlled, managed, ignored, or tamed. And feeding our hunger will set off a cycle of frenzied, nonstop eating. Right? Wrong!

Before I explore why the above notions are wrong, let me share that we women have gotten a bum wrap. We have been brainwashed to believe that hunger is bad, that if we give in to hunger we will not be able to stop eating. We have believed the messages of the $109 million dollar diet industry that we cannot find health and well being without the help of a diet. We have believed the messages of the fashion industry – that we are not acceptable, desirable, worthy of love, unless we are a size 0, or 2, or 4, or maybe we’re okay at a size 8. (Think about the underlying message of this – in order to be a “something” we have to diet down to a “nothing” – a size 0.) We have been duped!

Some theorists who have explored this country’s growing problem with weight have said that women in particular have dieted their way into obesity. Have you heard this expression, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction? What this means to us women (paraphrasing Geneen Roth, an international weight management expert) is that, for every diet there is an equal and opposite binge. Deprivation triggers excess eating.

But I’m not here to point out what most of us already know… that diets don’t work. I’m here to present an alternative approach to weight management, to health and well being, something that we can live with for life. Some people call it Feeding on Demand. Some call it Intuitive Eating. I call it Body Sense. And feeding our hunger is part of that sense or wisdom that each of our bodies has.

It’s simple and the complete opposite of what we have come to believe. Hunger is natural, normal, and a sign of health. Hunger is a signal that the body needs refueling. Without feeding our bodies on a regular basis we can wreak havoc on our entire physical and mental system. Would we expect the car to go if the fuel gauge read empty? Of course not! However, we do expect our bodies to do their work and our brains to think clearly without proper nourishment. (And by the way, hot fudge sundaes and chocolate chip cookies do not constitute appropriate fuel for the body and brain. Sorry about that.) We need to learn to feed our hunger.

So how do we make the shift from controlling our hunger to trusting it? If we can hold the belief (and I know this is challenging) that our bodies have this innate wisdom (and they do), they will lead us to three simple (but not necessarily easy) principles. They are: Eat whatever you want (keeping healthy nutrition in mind); But eat only when you’re hungry (true physical hunger, not cravings, urges, not from boredom, sadness or anxiety, and by the way, we can learn to manage these); And stop when you are comfortable, not stuffed.

Although what I’m going to say next is not directly related to hunger, it is an important principle in achieving health and well being. We need to regularly put movement into our lives. (Exercise is a “four letter word” for some people, so I’ve chosen to use the word movement.) Our bodies were made to move. If they weren’t we wouldn’t have arms and legs. We’d just be giant heads.

So we have a choice. We can continue to have an adversarial relationship with our bodies, to do battle with them, to treat our hunger as a dangerous, wild beast. Or… we can befriend our bodies, learn from their innate wisdom. We can experience hunger as natural and healthy. The first approach keeps us at war. The latter brings us peace, harmony, and health. Which one will you choose?

Author's Bio: 

Ilene Leshinsky is a licensed clinical social worker with over 15 years of counseling experience. In her Plattsburgh-based private practice, she works with women of all ages who want more joy and fulfillment in their lives. Ilene’s BodySense program is open to women of all ages who are in conflict with weight, eating, and body image. She can be reached at 518-570-6164,, or