Nutrition counseling for every body

Nose hunger

Image credit: Flickr / bark

marya bruning dietitian dietician nutrition boise idaho

Flickr / gail

Recently I was working with a client who bakes full-time for a large university. He was concerned about out-of-balance eating, and at first I assumed that he was talking about eating too many cookies and muffins during his breaks at work. When I asked him about what it was like to work in a bakery and how it affected his eating habits, he surprised me. “I used to love desserts, but now I can’t stand them. In fact, my entire appetite is so strange now. I don’t feel hungry when I’m at work. It’s like my nose gets overloaded with the smell of sweets, and I just can’t get excited about eating snacks or my lunch. But when I get home and I’ve had a shower and changed my clothes, suddenly I’m hungry.”

Ah ha! This is a classic example of nose hunger. Just like stomachs, noses can can go from hungry to satisfied to full to stuffed. My client’s nose was inhaling so much information in the bakery that it was overriding all of his other sensations of hunger. Once the smell of sweets cleared away, his other hungers emerged and gave him the signals to eat.

Each of us experiences nose hunger – and its absence – in daily life. For example, our appetites might suddenly perk up when the smell of the neighbor’s barbecue wafts over the fence. Or we might notice a big dip in appetite when our noses are stuffed up with a cold.


Eyes crave beauty. Mouths crave sensation. Noses crave fragrance!

Have you ever noticed that some people have a dull sense of smell, while others are super sniffers? Some super-sniffing researchers have started creating smell maps of big cities. What would a map of your town look like?

The sense of smell is so important to our survival that we can detect around 1 trillion unique odors, and particular odors can become etched in our memories for decades. Fragrances can be pleasant, as with relaxing, aromatherapeutic lavender or the scent of a grandpa’s cologne. Some fragrances might strike us as neutral or indifferent. And some fragrances bowl us over with a sense of disgust, like spoiled food or the odor of a food that we associate with sickness.


If you’re curious about your own nose hunger, here are some experiments to try:

  • As you move through your day, pause every once in a while to notice what you’re smelling. You might notice the smells of food, plants and flowers, cleaning products, perfume, chlorine, cigarette smoke, car exhaust, or any number of things. You may not have words to describe every scent, and that’s ok. Just practice noticing your nose. Just take a breath and get in touch with the sensations of smelling.
  • Before beginning a meal or snack, bring your nose to the food and inhale deeply. On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being no nose hunger and 10 being intense nose hunger, how hungry to you feel at that moment?
  • As you continue to eat, check in with your nose. What do you notice about the smell of the food?
  • As you become more in touch with your sense of smell, notice what fragrances nourish you, and appreciate them with your full attention!