Trusting Your Gut: How Hunger Cues Can Reset on a Plant Based Diet

Trusting Your Gut: How Hunger Cues Can Reset

Most of us have been conditioned with very specific ideas of what breakfast, lunch, and dinner consist of and when they should be eaten. This is generally how it’s been done since the days of old. And when I say days of old, I don’t have a specific year in mind, but images of puffy sleeves, neck ruffs, and bonnets come to mind. As a side note, THANK GOD neck ruffs aren’t a thing anymore. Talk about some fuckery!

Before people open their eyes to the luscious world of plant food, the typical foods that make up breakfast, lunch, and dinner are usually void of nutrients and fiber and high in processed carbohydrates and animal protein.

Then, we discover a plant based way of eating, and hunger cues start to shift

As we get more clued up and eat more plants, the components of our meals change, becoming nutrient-dense and health-supporting instead of nutrient-void and health-crippling.

When this happens, lots of changes often take place in a short amount of time:

  • Blood pressure comes down
  • Bad cholesterol numbers go down
  • We might start shedding weight
  • We sleep better
  • Energy naturally increases
  • Our outlook on life is more positive and we just feel better all around

Another thing that happens is our eating patterns start to shift and, as a result, the lines between traditional meals begin to blur. This can be a weird transition because we’ve probably had set eating patterns for a long time, and this repetition brings us comfort because it’s part of our routine.

We humans like routine, even if that routine isn’t necessarily good for us.

A long time ago, in the days of old, a really really smart man in a neck ruff discovered that there’s an equal and opposite reaction for every action. You can’t change one aspect of something without other aspects changing as well. In this case, you can’t change what you eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner without changing when you eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Let’s break this down and look at a standard American eating pattern 

Your breakfast might have consisted of eggs and toast at 8 am and by lunchtime, you were fucking famished. You may have scarfed down a chicken salad sandwich and potato chips at noon because you couldn’t wait a second longer to eat.

After lunch, you felt bloated and full, but weirdly, you were still hungry and couldn’t stop thinking about food even though you JUST ate. Your mind kept wandering to processed carbs. Donuts, croissants, potato chips, garlic bread—oh yes! You could eat it all.

Maybe you made it until 3 pm, and then you caved and bought an iced coffee and a big pastry to hold you over until dinner. You got home from work and ate a huge plate of spaghetti and meatballs at 7 pm and before you even washed your plate, you made your way to the couch with a tub of ice cream and proceeded to dig in while you watched TV.

By the time you went to bed, you felt sick, stuffed, and exhausted. And this is how it went; all day, every day, either feeling starving or uncomfortably full. There was no in between, and there was never a time when you weren’t thinking about food or your stomach.

But then you heard about the benefits of whole food plant based eating

You heard about people reaching their ideal weight without counting calories. You heard about people getting off their medications and getting super healthy by simply changing what they eat.

You heard about people reversing their diabetes and getting off insulin. You heard about people reversing their heart disease. You wanted to try it out, but you were scared and you had no idea where to start.

One day, you bumped into a friend who you hadn’t seen in a while, and she looked absolutely radiant, happy, glowing, and at least ten years younger than the last time you saw her. You asked her what the hell she did to get this aura of light around her, and she told you that she had been eating our plant based meal plans for the past six months.

Well fuck! It was time for you to do some research and try this out.

Now you’re eating mainly plants, and you feel damn good and satisfied on a consistent basis

So now you’re eating mainly plants and you feel really damn good and satisfied on a consistent basis. You never crave processed carbs and your mind isn’t constantly consumed with food and your stomach. You’re losing weight and you’re never starving or deprived – a combo that you didn’t know was possible.

You’re feeling awesome. There’s just one thing that’s bugging you. Your new  routine and the timing of when you eat resembles nothing you’ve ever experienced and, because you don’t have anything to compare it to, you have no idea if you’re doing it right.

Your new eating pattern on a plant based diet might look something like this

You have a green smoothie in the morning that holds you over until 10 am. That’s awesome, but you’ve never eaten breakfast at 10 am. Is that even considered breakfast? And is a green smoothie okay to eat for breakfast, or do you need more food? Because 10 am is a weird time to eat, do you eat lunch or breakfast? You settle on some oats with lots of fruit and sprouted toast with almond butter.

You go through your day, and, all of a sudden, it’s 2 pm. Okay, are you supposed to eat lunch now? You’re not starving, but you feel like you should eat. You have a wrap with oil-free hummus and lots of veggies. Things are good, but you keep wondering if you’re getting enough food. The day winds down, and your body tells you that it needs food. But it’s only 5 pm.

Well, this is fucking dandy. The thought of eating at 5 pm is a little depressing. Do you avoid an existential crisis by waiting an hour and a half to eat, or do you face the fact that we all get old and die and eat now? 

So you eat at 5 pm, and then by 8, you’re hungry again, not starving, but you could eat. Hold on, does dinner have two parts when eating this way? You want to Google it but don’t know what to ask. You settle on some fruit and tea, cozy up on the couch, and crack open your book. Food is nowhere near your thoughts.

Eventually, you head off to bed feeling proud of yourself. Feeling satisfied. And feeling happy. But you also feel unsure if you’re doing this whole eating thing right, which freaks you out because while you might not be ready to embrace eating dinner when it’s still light out, you thought that for sure that by this age, you would have had a handle on feeding yourself.

If you’ve been wondering whether you’re doing this whole plant based thing right, your body will answer. 

The most important thing to remember when you eat like this is to listen to your body. When you eat the right fuel, your body will tell you when, what, and how much to eat. Just trust your body’s hunger cues, let it take the lead, and enjoy all those nutritious plants.

Have you struggled with eating at the “right” time? 

Talk to me in the comments below.

If you want to tap into your body’s natural hunger cues, we make it simple.

  1. Follow along with our meal plans and recipes
  2. Which makes it easy to eliminate highly processed foods from your diet
  3. Your hunger scale will naturally reset
  4. Once it does, you can listen to your body and trust what it tells you
  5. This means you can toss out the traditional idea of when and what to eat 

Sign up for Plant Fueled Life, and you’ll be saying, “Fuck yeah, I’m doing this right!” in no time.



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Our Sweary Saturday Love Letters are written by our ex-boozer, ex-smoker, plant-loving co-founder, Molly Patrick.


  1. pat on October 20, 2016 at 1:58 am

    I’m so glad you wrote this! For months I’ve been noticing that I often wasn’t hungry when I thought I should eat and was hungry at “off” times. For awhile I forced myself to eat at “normal” times and noticed that it didn’t feel right. So, slowly I’ve been learning to eat more intuitively and am noticing that it’s working way better for me. I’ve also been changing up what I eat when. I’ve always been ok with breakfast for dinner but had a harder time reconciling rice and beans for breakfast. I’m getting there though. Thanks again.

    • Clean Food Dirty Girl on October 20, 2016 at 4:27 am

      Hi Pat, happy to hear that this post helped you to trust your natural instincts. 🙂

      • pamela on June 2, 2018 at 1:14 pm

        Love this green drink! where did you find the fun purple straws??

        • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on June 4, 2018 at 7:07 am

          Hi Pamela, I checked with the photographer, Christine June, and she got these off of Etsy about 8 years ago from a seller “Cherry Glass”. ~Karen

  2. Kaye on October 23, 2016 at 9:40 pm

    This is really helpful. Thank you so much.

  3. Alice J on May 1, 2018 at 4:02 pm

    5 stars
    how, how, how is it you have perfectly described my life? before and hopefully after. i’ve been searching hi/lo for a plant based food blog without the altruistic subtext. sure i care that my ingedients are ethically sourced and not full of pesticides, and i’m mostly interested in not being the only fat person in the entire Whole Foods Market store. My personal low point was asking the tall guy working at the cheese counter to come reach the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream on the top shelf of the freezer that was obviously designed by some asshole who thought short people don’t deserve to have an americone dream. thanks for this blog and for helping me build my smoothie skillz!

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on May 1, 2018 at 7:10 pm

      Nice, Alice. Glad you found Molly. Judging (not jegan judging) by your humor, I’m pretty sure you’ll find some other content on these here digital pages that will be the…perfect shelf height, delivering deliciousness and love. Enjoy that smoothie! ~Karen

  4. Laurie on May 13, 2018 at 9:06 pm

    5 stars
    Truly, this site speaks my language in more ways than one. I’m on a virgin tour here with just making the decision to change my “down the hatch” superb skill to that of WFPB. It’s exciting with an oh shit factor blended in with the smoothie.

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on May 14, 2018 at 9:20 am

      Welcome Laurie! Stick around, check out some free recipes and, when you’re feeling more confident, maybe request our free sample meal plan – look for the blue button that says “Hook me up with a free meal plan” about half-way down the page. If you’re on Facebook, join us in our private Facebook group. The community is super supportive to anyone on their journey with plants wherever they may be. ~Karen

  5. Vikki on May 23, 2020 at 12:11 pm

    5pm dinner is for those in old folks homes…. and parents of small children! I love the ethos here but kids do get hungry at pretty set times, and they also NEED to eat enough to get them through a school morning. It’s like the porridge for dinner. Sometimes Id seriously love too but it’s not just me I have to think about, and whilst the kids would happily chomp down oats for dinner, they would be less happy about veg at breakfast. Conventions can tie you down and it’s not just a mental leap to get out of them. Shame.

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on May 24, 2020 at 8:14 am

      For sure, it’s not always easy to structure eating when you are only feeling true hunger in light of daily schedules that dictate when we can or cannot be near a kitchen. And kids definitely have more needs for nourishment overall. Thanks for sharing, Vikki! ~Karen on behalf of Team Dirty

  6. Margaret on February 23, 2022 at 11:11 am

    I learned to eat green beans for breakfast when they kept serving them at Alumni Breakfasts my job held. It seems normal to add them now.

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