Bringing Awareness to the Food/ Emotion Connection Part 1: The 7 Types of Hunger

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By Rachel Hershberger, MS, CNS, LDN and Jill Maddock, PIM Office Manager

Our personal connection with our emotions and food is so important to our health. Bringing awareness to our thoughts and responses can help identify any underlying triggers for emotional eating. Without judgement, we can allow ourselves to recognize and move forward in a way that is healthy and most supportive to our bodies. This awareness can help anyone that feels they may be struggling with a weight related health goal. In the first part of this two part blog, we explain the 7 types of hunger. Join us on 5/9 for a FREE class- Intro to Healthy Weight. If you like our classes and want to dive deeper, checkout our Deep Dive Series with Georgia Tetlow, MD. 6/20 is a Deep Dive on Healthy Weight for Life. Please note tickets must be purchased ahead of time for Deep Dive classes. Stay tuned for part 2 which will focus on strategies for awareness and common cravings with direct solutions.

7 Types of Hunger

From Mindful Eating by Jan Chozen Bays, MD

  1. Eye Hunger- we are very stimulated by sight. A beautifully presented meal will be much more appealing that a bucket of slop, even if the ingredients are the same! If we feast our eyes on the food instead of mindfully stuffing our mouth while doing another task, we will feel more satisfied.

  2. Nose Hunger- Most of what we think is taste is actually smell. For example, if you have ever had a cold and found you lost your sense of test. Practice sensitizing yourself to the small of your food by pausing to take in the aroma before eating for greater satisfaction.

  3. Mouth Hunger- Social influence conditions what we think of as tasy and appealing food. Our background influences how salty, sweet or spicy we may prefer our food. For example a delicacy in one culture may be a repellant in another. Generating greater awareness and a sense of open curiosity around textures and flavors in our mouths can help lead to greater satisfaction.

  4. Stomach Hunger- A rumbling tummy doesn’t necessarily mean that our body needs food. This cue comes from the self-taught schedule we’ve given our stomachs. It takes awareness and practice to sense actual hunger. We can often confuse another sensation such as anxiety or nervousness with hunger. If we feed anxiety with junk food and then feel bad about eating it, we trigger that spiral of negative emotions associated with eating. It takes practice, but listen to your stomach cues and start to familiarize yourself. Try to delay eating gradually to become aware of the sensations associated with genuine hunger. Asses your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10 before you eat and halfway through eating as a check-in.

  5. Cellular Hunger- If our cells don’t receive nutrients, we might feel tired, irritable or get a headache. This is that hardest type of hunger to sense, children can intuitively sense it and we lose the ability overtime. It is possible to regain this skill through mindfulness and even develop cravings for the necessary nutrients.

  6. Mind Hunger- Modern society has influenced us to become anxious eaters, eat a fad diet, or follow the latest nutritional guidelines. This deafens our inner voice that tells us if a food is bad or good. Our natural cues are the most intelligent for our own bodies to be satisfied. If we don’t allow our fickle mind the satisfaction of it’s natural craving, it will find something else to focus on.

  7. Heart Hunger- A lot of the time, our hunger is linked to our emotions. We might crave a comfort food that we were given as a child or because we associate a certain food as a treat when we feel down. Emotional eating often boils down to a deep desire for love or to be looked after. We eat to fill a hole that can’t be satisfied through eating. It can only be satisfied through the comfort or intimacy we are craving. Try to pause and notice your emotion before having a snack and ask yourself if there is another way to fill it. Can you call a friend, have a cup of tea or take a hot bath?

Read more about Rachel and schedule a Nutrition appointment today!

PIM wants to hear from you! Do you have an experience with a connection to hunger? Do you find this article helpful? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Interested in connecting with PIM? Register for one of our upcoming events - Deep Dive Classes with Dr. Tetlow at Cabrini College, tickets just $75 at sign up (limited space for individual attention, no walkins, please).

OR Nutrition Classes with our very own Rachel Hershberger, MS, CNS, LDN, tickets just $45 at sign up (limited to 8 participants for individual attention, no walkins, please).

If you or your loved one want to improve overall well being  or are suffering from a chronic illness, please consider scheduling a 20 minute free consultation or an appointment with Lauren Houser, MS, MSN, CRNP or Annmarie McManus, MMSc, PA-C, PT, IFMCP.



Bays, Jan Chozen. Mindful Eating. Shambhala, Boston 2011. Print