Eat when you are not hungry..what!?

In Intuitive Eating (IE), hunger is discussed often and there is more than just physical and emotional hunger. The 2nd principle of Intuitive Eating is to honor your hunger and there are four different types of hunger we will discuss. 

 This blog post can be used as a resource to help you recognize the type of hunger you are experiencing and how to better respond to your body cues. Hunger is a physiological need for food with physical sensations that tells our body to eat.  It is different from appetite, which is a psychological desire to consume food and appetite is needed to satisfy hunger. By listening to our hunger cues, it allows us to start embracing fullness and making peace with food. A misconception of Intuitive Eating is that you only eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. That is black and white thinking which is what diet rules are made up of and not what Intuitive Eating is about.

Four Types of Hunger in IE

Biological hunger 

This is feeling physically hungry, which can include  growling, gnawing or emptiness in the stomach, light-headedness, headache, difficulty concentrating, etc. It is the body mechanism for survival. If we ignore our hunger signals, we end up with primal hunger which is an intense desire to eat. Often you may scarf down the first thing you see and end up going past the point of comfortable fullness. An example of primal hunger is going to a restaurant with a long wait time and then once you get seated, you devor the entire bread basket.

Taste hunger

You are not physically hungry but the food looks or sounds good. A great example of this is a special occasion,such as a birthday party, when you are full from the main meal, but you want to enjoy the cake. You want to be able to enjoy the experience of food with others. Another instance is you are walking by a bakery and the aroma of baked goods grabs you. You are allowed to eat when you’re not hungry. Reminding yourself that this food is not off limits and you may notice you don’t feel the need to honor this taste hunger every time. 

Practical hunger

 “Plan ahead” hunger. This occurs when you are not hungry at the moment, but know you need to eat due to not having access to food later on when you are anticipating physical hunger. A great example of this would be if you had to catch a flight or have a work meeting/class/event at a typical meal time. Eating ahead of time so you are not hungry on your flight or at your event prevents you from being hangry (for some people), irritated, etc. 

Emotional hunger 

This is eating when you are feeling lonely, depressed, upset or experiencing another uncomfortable emotion and have a desire to eat. Known as “emotional eating”,which is labeled as bad in diet culture, this type of eating is valid and common. Craving and eating a food we had growing up may help us feel more connected. Eating chocolate during that time of the month can help us feel better. 

How do you distinguish between biological hunger and emotional hunger? Biological hunger comes from the head, comes on slowly, and is a few hours between meals. Emotional hunger happens when we are craving comfort due to feeling an intense or uncomfortable feeling, or wanting distraction, coming on quickly and you recently ate. 

Where do you feel the physical sensations of hunger in your body? Perhaps a gnawing emptiness or growling in your stomach? Or no sensation at all? 

Do you notice you are hungry and thinking about food or what you want to eat? 

How does your hunger change, if at all, when you are traveling, stressed, or exhausted?

Read more about IE 

Introduction to Intuitive Eating and Principle #1 : Reject Diet Mentality 

Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch*

Kelly Goodson is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the book listed above is an affiliate link.

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