I basically never have a growling stomach or hollow empty feeling before I eat. If I wait that long, I'm underfeeding myself. I thought my hunger signals were faulty and unreliable, but years of ignoring them had made me really good at not registering hunger until I felt like I was going to pass out or punch someone. I think the hunger signals were actually there all along, but anything short of gnawing hunger and my restrict-o-brain was like, nope, not real, nice try, better wait. So, it was more a matter of going ahead and eating when I thought about food, wanted food, or when it was practical to do so. If I ate earlier or later than "ideal," I would be satisfied with more or less food, so it still worked out perfectly. I was also amazed to learn that thinking about food or feeling like I could eat IS a hunger signal, the very first one you get. If I eat then, there is far less drama than if I delay eating as long as possible.
"@skwigg for some reason I thought that you were a grumbling stomach experiencer? Maybe that was back in the old Happy Eaters forum with Lean Habits??"
Yes. I hadn't even thought about it, but that was all Lean Habits, intermittent fasting, no snacking kind of stuff where I thought I was supposed to be clearly physically hungry before I could eat. I thought I had to go to sleep a bit hungry, and fast 12+ hours overnight. I definitely believed I shouldn't snack. So, if I wanted to eat between meals or after I'd just eaten, that was "addictive desire" and not real hunger. 🙄 In hindsight, that logic was all about fear and weight control. I thought those tactics were necessary for leanness, especially if I didn't have any off limits foods or means of portion control. It was also before I'd read and done the exercises in the Intuitive Eating Workbook, which changed everything. Once I could recognize more subtle signs of hunger and fullness, I didn't need rules, habits, or flexible templates anymore.
The irony is, I'm leaner NOT waiting for stomach-growling hunger. If I'm routinely underfeeding myself and getting too hungry, I more than make up for that with my subsequent food decisions. The harder I control things up front, the weirder it gets on the back end of those choices. I end up gasping for food and experiencing a higher level of drama and frustration than if I go ahead and make a sandwich when the thought first occurs to me.
Now, I usually eat when I think about food, or want food, or it's practical to eat. Those are all perfectly reasonable impulses now that I'm not walking around too hungry. It's like the sooner I honor hunger, the easier it is to recognize satisfaction. I'm not second-guessing my appetite or using tricks to stop eating anymore. The beauty of eating early and often is that you're truly not hungry and not thinking about food the vast majority of the time, and when you do eat, it's easy to stop, because you weren't ravenous when you started.