Nutrition counseling for every body

The 9 kinds of hunger

Image: Dawn Ellner / Flickr

I suspect that whoever came up with the advice to “eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full” was not a twenty-first century American surrounded by an abundance of food, food advertising, airbrushed images of slim bodies, and diet gimmicks. Now more than ever, it’s hard to gauge our appetites and feed ourselves in a way that makes sense. Case in point: how do you know when you’re hungry?

I know I’m hungry when _____________.

  • my stomach is grumbling / growling / empty / hollow
  • my head is achy and I can’t concentrate
  • I feel like I could eat a horse
  • I feel irritable / grumpy
  • my thoughts are preoccupied with food
  • I feel shaky / faint / weak
  • I run out of energy in the middle of the afternoon
  • I see something tasty to eat in the break room / drive-thru / cupboard
  • I see an ad for fast food / snack foods
  • I smell baking cookies / bread / cinnamon rolls
  • my mouth feels like it needs something crunchy / creamy / salty / sweet…
  • the clock says it’s lunchtime / dinnertime
  • I sit down to watch TV
  • I feel lonely / bored / nervous / happy / restless / overwhelmed / depressed / disappointed / rejected…
  • people around me start to eat
  • other

And, how do you know when you’re full or satisfied?

I know it’s time to stop eating when ________.

  • my stomach feels stretched / full / bloated / stuffed
  • I’m re-energized
  • I stop obsessing about food
  • the food stops tasting good – it’s like my taste buds get worn out
  • the food stops smelling good – my nose gets tired of smelling
  • my mouth feels calm
  • the bowl / plate / take-out container is empty
  • my lunch break is over
  • the TV show is over
  • my emotions feel numb / dull
  • the people around me stop eating
  • other

As you can see, hunger and fullness can show up in all sorts of different ways. If you notice that you’re out of touch with your appetite – if you eat too much or too little – it can really help to learn about the nine types of hunger. With practice, as you become familiar with hunger and start to identify it in your own body, you can feed yourself exactly what you need to find satisfaction.

Let’s begin with eye hunger.