Practical Hunger for Migraine

Do you find yourself waking up with no appetite and not eating breakfast until you’re completely starving around 1 p.m???

This is a recipe for migraine episodes! Eating regularly throughout the day, especially in the morning, is an important part of long-term migraine management.

You maybe thinking to yourself “Kelli, I’m NOT hungry in the morning- how am I supposed to eat breakfast??? Shouldn’t I wait until I’m hungry and be in tune with my body???”


Enter a practice called Practical Hunger!

Practical hunger is one of the 4 types of hunger in intuitive eating.

A little refresher- intuitive eating is a non-diet approach to eating habits that focuses on honoring your body and your mind by reconnecting with your hunger and fullness cues that are driven by physical and psychological stimuli.

Practical hunger comes into play when you may not be feeling a physical sense of hunger, but rather a need to eat in response to anticipated physical hunger that you may not experience in that time.

Signs of physical hunger often feel like they hit you head on… grumbling and empty stomach, fatigue, brain fog & light headedness, weakness, and grumpiness (aka hanger)- but these physical cues brew slowly and continue to intensify until you eat!

Practical hunger is a little different than physical hunger in the sense that you may not be experiencing those physical hunger cues of hunger, but you’re anticipating being hungry or having a need for food in the future.


Now where do you start with incorporating practical hunger???

Think of the last time where you had hunger hit you like a bus- and you had no access to food. Did you wake up without an appetite and skip breakfast to find yourself going through the drive through on your commute to work? Forget to bring a snack to your kids basketball practice before dinner?

Life can be unpredictable and sometimes you just have to wait to eat until you’re really hungry! But if you’re finding yourself with those intense lingering side effects from hunger like increased brain fog, fatigue, migraine… then it maybe time to incorporate practical hunger.


So how do you do it???

Practical hunger is all about preparation!

Now no worries… this doesn’t have to include Olympian level meal prepping or scheduling practical hunger into your google calendar… start simple!

If you’re waking up at 6 AM for work and then become viciously hungry around 9 AM, try eating a piece of fruit and some nuts while you’re getting ready for work at 7 AM. Chances are when 9 rolls around… you’re going to be a lot less hangry and be able to make conscious and clear decisions about your next meal.

Once you start looking at your day and thinking about when you may not have access to food but you know you want to avoid that feeling of hanger- then you can start becoming more in tune with your practical hunger and it may even end up turning into physical hunger.


Practical hunger can help stimulate appetite over time and get your body back into a routine of wanting some nourishment first thing in the morning!

When my clients start eating a balanced breakfast consistently their appetite increases in the AM, migraine symptoms improve, and energy levels increase!

Studies have also found that skipping breakfast is associated with increased markers of insulin resistance, increased LDL (“bad” cholesterol), and decreased hormones that help you feel satisfied after eating throughout the day.

On the flip side- studies have shown that people who DO eat breakfast perform better and have higher levels of concentration, are at less risk for vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, and have a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.


I want to hear from you – do you think your eating habits are contributing to your migraine? Have you tried what feels like everything to stick to an eating schedule but just don’t find it to work for your life?? Let me know in the comments!


Want more support managing migraine using a gentle, holistic approach? Click HERE to learn more about how I can help!

Reviewed by Kelli Yates, RD, LD, CLT

Published by Kathryn Darsillo, B.S Nutrition & Dietetics, Dietetic Intern

Kathryn Darsillo, is currently a Dietetic Intern with Lenoir-Rhyne University and has a Bachelors of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics in addition to having an Associates Certificate of Completion in Culinary Arts, and is also a fellow migraineur!

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