“I’m starving” is an expression we often use when we feel the intense pain of missing a meal. Thankfully for many of us, it’s highly unlikely that our feelings of starvation will meet its definition as dying from lack of food.

With this in mind, let’s delve into the feeling of hunger with the understanding that it is a complicated feeling, like anger, fear, and love. Hunger has unhealthy consequences when it causes us to become dysregulated or hangry.

Types of Hunger

Dr Arun Dhir gastrointestinal surgeon helps unpack the different types of hunger, saying that while hunger is complex it does have two fundamental aspects, it’s either physical or hedonic.

Physical hunger builds slowly; it’s felt below the neck and is associated with hunger pangs, low energy or irritability. Hedonic hunger is usually triggered by the brain as a reaction to environmental stimuli from the senses.

The critical difference between the two is; physical hunger relieved leaves us with a pleasant sense of satisfaction. Whereas satisfying hedonic hunger can generate feelings of guilt or shame.

Types of Physical hunger:
  • Stomach Hunger: We understand the grumpy feeling of our stomach rumbling as hunger. But believe it or not, the stomach does not tell us when the body needs food. The stomach is cued to draw attention to our habitual feeding patterns, and it may not be serving our health. For example, it is unlikely that an hour after breakfast, we are starving for morning tea. Quick Hunger Fix: Synchronise the stomach cues to the body’s need for food with structured eating. A good way is a 3 meal plan: breakfast, lunch, dinner with at least 3 hours between each meal – no snacking!
  • Cellular Hunger: Dr Dhir, advises: “your cells provide the body with energy and your cells need nutrients.”  These are the must have macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats) and micronutrients being vitamins and minerals. Cellular hunger is hard to sense, even though it is the reason we should eat. It is therefore important to have a varied diet comprising of wholefoods to ensure the body is appropriately nourished. Quick Hunger Fix: Include at least 5 serves of vegetables in your daily diet. Here is the Australian guide to healthy eating: Learn More
Types of Hedonic Hunger:
  • Mind Hunger: Generated by belief systems, influenced by media imagery, creating a desire for indulging in the pleasure of food independent of the body’s nutritional requirements. Quick Hunger Fix: When feeling hungry start with a glass of water, followed by a crunchy vegetable like carrot or celery.
  • Eye Hunger: Seeing food triggers a primitive hormonal reaction. When food was scarce “treat foods” were not available in ambulance. It is the reason a decadent chocolate cake is more appealing than an apple for many of us! Quick Hunger Fix: Have whole foods such as fresh fruits readily available and keep processed foods out of sight.
  • Nose Hunger: We all can relate to the delicious aroma of cooking food and know when our nose is blocked, food isn’t as appealing. Modern living means we are surrounded by food smells luring us into a false need to eat. Quick Hunger Fix: Plan your shopping trips after your meals.
  • Mouth Hunger: Without a doubt, the taste of food brings enormous pleasure. Taste is determined by genetics, culture and conditioning. The brain is designed to acknowledge a variety of taste and textures for the pleasure of taste. It is the reason the first square of chocolate tastes better than the tenth if we were to mindfully eat that much chocolate. Quick Hunger Fix: After foods such as chocolate, rinse your mouth with water, or brush your teeth to remove the lingering taste and trigger for more.
  • Heart Hunger: This is a tough one, it is where we find comfort in food for feelings of sadness, stress, low self-worth, or simply to feel protected and loved. If you identify as an emotional eater, then I urge you to seek professional care. Tackling heart hunger takes grace, self-compassion and support. There is no quick fix for heart hunger. Investing in the mindful practice of whole food nutrition and daily exercise will see your body get stronger, and you will feel more able to make choices towards living your life with well being.

Exercise will help regulate your hunger and move you towards a healthy lifestyle. Download your 9-minute cardio, core and strength beginner workout and feel the difference exercise can make to your life. The link is below for you.

Live well with Health and WELLth!  

Written by Anna: Nutritionist and Exercise Coach @SquareBoxFitness.com