Our lives begin with round-the-clock feedings, our exhausted parents focused on ensuring we have enough milk to drink. We’re born with an instinct for what, and how much to eat.

Ever watch a toddler eat? They just grab handfuls of food they want and throw the rest on the floor. They instinctively knew when to eat and when to stop (when they’re full). 

Sometime after that, we learn to ignore that instinct. Some of our parents would tell us to clean our plates—remember, there are starving children in the world. Rather than taught to learn our bodies’ hunger cues, we’re told to have just one more bite of veggies. We move away from eating when we feel hungry and stopping when we’re full, toward a more artificial approach to food.

So how do we, as adults, get back to that inner child? The fact is, our internal food clocks are impacted by so many factors—sleep, activity, body changes, hormones and more. We can learn to tune into those biological needs with a few guiding principles:

1. Listen to your internal cues.

Unlike external cues—events we attend, grocery stores we shop, commercials on television—internal cues come from within. Hormones, nerve signals and neurochemicals drive our desire to eat and signal us to stop eating. Try to tune into those cues, no matter how busy your day gets.

2. Sit with hunger.

Hunger is a normal biological cue that lets you know your body needs fuel. Nourishing your body is as essential as breathing. Sitting with hunger for a minute clues us into when we need nourishment.

3. Let your cravings communicate.

Cravings are our bodies’ way of telling us about imbalances—lack of sleep, stress, skipping meals. Give yourself permission to follow them with Intuitive Eating. Developed by two registered dietitians, this approach encourages eating without guilt by honoring our bodies’ needs. Next time you feel a craving, try asking yourself if your body is really requesting the food or if the feeling is driven by external cues like electronics, or internal moods like boredom. If the craving persists, follow it in the most Nourishing way possible, and practice self-compassion without shame.

4. Challenge the (food) rules.

Hear of habituation? That’s the science-y term for a decrease in response to repeated stimulus over time. In other words, “trigger” foods that lead to overeating can become less of a trigger when you remove the emotional novelty of that food so it becomes just another choice.

Ready to get back to that inner child?