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The 4 Types of Hunger

Posted August 4, 2016 by Michelle Reichert R.D.

The 4 Types of Hunger Summer has arrived!!! And along with it all the wonderful perks of family & friend gatherings including BBQ's, potlucks, Bonfire treats and sinking our teeth into some of Mother Nature's finest in season fruits and vegetables. With all these social events and countless nights of indulging in summer foods at their best we can very easily forget to check in with our internal hunger/fullness cues and find ourselves eating for reasons other than true physical hunger.

Most people know about physical hunger. The type of hunger that leads to a growling stomach and may cause you to feel tired, irritable and even make it difficult to concentrate on anything other than food. But very few people know that hunger also appears in the form of Nutritional Hunger, Emotional Hunger and Learned Hunger.

To stay in tune with your body and continue to practice mindful and intuitive eating concepts it is important to understand all types of hunger. Please keep reading for a full description of what I have defined as the 4 types of hunger.

  1. Physical Hunger - Physical hunger is the feeling you get several hours after completing a meal, after a long day at work, or an intense exercise session. This type of hunger is caused by your bodies physical need for energy and nutrients. This is what I like to call "True Hunger".
  2. Nutritional Hunger - This hunger is defined by your natural craving for nutrients. For example: if you have eaten a meal prepared with very little or no added fats your body will continue to signal hunger cues in order to get what it is lacking from the diet. If you continue to deprive your body from the crucial nutrient, enzyme, vitamin, and/or mineral it is lacking you may have trouble with feeling full and satisfied after meals and this can either A) cause you to feel unsatisfied and never truly full or B) cause you to over eat because your natural cravings are not being satisfied initially and you will continue to eat until they are.
  3. Emotional Hunger - Emotional hunger is the type of hunger that involves eating with your heart rather than your head. I believe it to be the second most common reason we eat other than physical hunger as well as the most known alternative reason for eating. This involves eating when we are lonely, sad, mad, glad, frustrated, tired, bored and so on...
  4. Learned Hunger - And finally we come to learned hunger. This is the type of hunger that is commonly triggered based on the time of day. If we look at the clock and its 12:00 noon our brain immediately lets us know that it is "lunch time!" and off we go to get our lunch box of goodies. If this type of hunger only arises a few times a day for our specific meals breakfast, lunch, supper, it is normally not a problem. However, if you have been away on vacation and you were eating 3 regular meals plus 4 - 6 regular snacks/day and have returned home, you may find it hard to transition back to only 3 meals and the occasional snack. Or if an individual was intensely training for a marathon and had to bump up their intake by increasing the number of times they ate in a day, they may in tern find it difficult to scale back their intake when the training sessions are over.

By understanding the 4 types of hunger you are enhancing your mindful and intuitive eating skills and will begin to get the most from your food – enjoyment, satisfaction and health.

If you are interested in finding out more about intuitive eating concepts, please visit our Intuitive Eating blog post.