Channeling the Cookie Monster? How to recognize Hunger Cues!

I wanted to give you a little peek into what I’ll be teaching in The Diet Renovation 14-Day Nutrition Challenge beginning Friday, February 10th.  One item that will be on the daily plate is how to understand our hunger cues. Are we really hungry all the time or could it be something else?

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Do you find yourself constantly snacking or staring deep into the fridge and pantry waiting for something to magically appear?

Ever get lost in a bag of chips while at your desk or on the couch watching TV?

What about being so busy you forgot to eat and when you finally did, you literally ate anything that passed in front of your eyes?  I’m envisioning the cookie monster here LOL, give me that cookie!

Or has something bad happened and caused you much stress that you plunged deep into the bottom of a bucket of ice cream or bottle of wine?

Yeah, I promise you are not alone!  Just this week I found myself staring in my pantry wondering why the heck we didn’t have any junk food and then wandering off to the fridge to see nothing but vegetables. UGH!!! Buuuut the lack of junk food in our house made me stop and become aware of my uncomfortable feelings and actions!

I found myself wanting foods that I don’t normally crave or even want.  Like where’s the chocolate cereal and Cheetos, why are these not in my pantry??

Then I thought ok, what is going on here?  My breakfast was filling and so was my lunch, what has me searching intensely for chocolate cereal and Cheetos?

Stress, oh stress had me like…….. ???? alright time to take a step back and chill out!  In my experience, there are three things that can trip us up and make us think we are hungry when we are not – Stress, Boredom, and Dehydration.

Think about it, when we are stressed many times we reach for our choice of comfort food.  When we are bored we have major snack attacks.  And this one you might not be aware of – when our bodies need water, it translates to our brains as hunger.  Our body is asking for water, but we think it’s asking for food!

So how do you know if you are actually hungry or being sabotaged by stress, boredom or dehydration?  Well, you have to develop your own system on hunger cues.

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Through my studies with Precision Nutrition, I have learned it’s easiest to base your hunger on a scale of 1-10, 1 being not hungry and 10 being you might hurt someone for food ????!!

When you reach about a 7 on the scale, that’s a good tipping point to eat your next meal.

But what are some signs you can look for to know if you are actually hungry?  First, did you have enough protein and fats at your last meal or was it all bread or something starchy and a little bit of meat? Or maybe you had a large salad but your protein source was an egg? You’ll be hungry all day if this how you typically structure your meals. For satiety purposes, we must get enough protein and fat at each meal.

In the toolkit from The Diet Renovation guide, I show you how to start balancing our your meals with Protein, Fats, and Carbs. Once your meals are in balance, then you can start to look for authentic hunger cues.

From the time you had your first meal to the next, it should last you about 3-4 hours. Each hour you can check in with yourself to see where you feel on the 1-10 hunger scale.

If your meals are balanced out properly and you are feeling hungry an hour or two after your meal, there’s an excellent chance you need water. Go ahead and drink a big glass of water and see if that gets you through to the 3-4 hour mark.

Once you feel about a 7 on the hunger scale that’s a good time to eat your next meal.  If you wait until you’re between 8-10 there’s an excellent chance you might turn into the Cookie Monster with a fierce attitude!!

Here are some cues to look for when approaching the 7 mark on the hunger scale:

  • stomach starts to growl or sense of emptiness and slightly burns – time to eat
  • lightheadedness, headache or lack of focus on what you are currently doing – eat now
  • irritable, shaky, anxiety and zero energy- waited too long, this is a “no go” zone, we want to avoid, however, if you do find yourself here eat something that is quickly digestible and then focus on a balanced meal

By being aware of your hunger cues, this will help you determine if stress, boredom or dehydration is trying to trick you into eating more.

Let’s get strategic about the three sabotagers…………


It’s extremely important to stay hydrated and it will be a main focus in the 14-Day Nutrition Challenge. However, there may be times that your body says more water is needed and this cue will present itself about an hour or two after you have eaten.

You’ll feel a slight hunger sensation and instead of reaching for a snack, try drinking a big glass of water. There’s a good chance that’s all your body needs and will get you through to the 3-4 hour mark with no issues.

If you are still feeling hungry after about 20 minutes, choose a protein-dense snack.  And then reflect on your last meal to see if your protein and fats were in check.


If you find yourself looking for snacks or pacing back and forth to the pantry, chances are good that you are just bored. Go do something to distract your mind. Go outside, start reading a book, call a friend, find a closet to clean out ????etc., just find something that distracts you!


Many days are filled with stress and emotions, however, it’s important to learn to deal with these stressors and find alternate solutions to coping rather than turning straight to food or drink.

It’s also important to be aware that the food or drink is not the issue or the underlying cause, it is the stress and emotions that we are not properly dealing with.

  • Write down the situations in which you reach for food/drink to comfort yourself
  • Think about the emotions that trigger the need for comfort
  • Write down other ways to deal with stressors and emotions – take a walk, lift weights, talk to a friend about the situation, take a long hot bath, etc.

Once you have identified alternative solutions you can begin practicing. It won’t be easy at first because your brain already has a set pattern it’s used to, just be patient with yourself!!

Remain aware and keep practicing, over time you will have set a much healthier pattern that aligns with taking back your health!!

Throughout the 14-Day Challenge, we will work closely together creating effective shopping lists and meal plans, we will learn how to balance out each meal to give us sustainable energy throughout the day, we will learn how to improve our digestion and get our metabolism back in proper working order so that YOU can feel amazing again!!

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