What is hunger?

Merriam-Webster defines hunger as:

hun·ger noun \ˈhəŋ-gər\

: a very great need for food : a severe lack of food

: an uncomfortable feeling in your stomach that is caused by the need for food

: a strong desire : a strong desire for something or to do something

So, as I have stated, my goal is to listen to my body and follow its cues and this week I am working to better understand hunger. In my opinion, the definition above provides three levels of hunger. The first, is described by Elyse Resch, M.S., R. D., etc…as primal hunger. Primal hunger is described as a state in which you may feel light-headed, have difficulty concentrating, irritability, faintness, and/or headachy. This is a state to be avoided as it can lead to out-of-control and unhealthful.

The second definition seems to be the most accurate description of ordinary hunger. It would include mild stomach rumbling, growling noises, or an achy sensation in the stomach. This is the body’s signal that it is time to have something to eat.

The third definition could be a combination of the three types of other “voices of hunger” described in the book Intuitive Eating: taste hunger, practical hunger (planning ahead), and emotional hunger.

Taste hunger is pretty straightforward, you aren’t physiologically hungry, but would really like to try a bite of or eat something. For example, you aren’t really hungry, but a dear friend has brought you her special recipe cookies that you have always wanted to try.

Practical hunger involves eating because you are very likely to become hungry during a time period when you will not have access to food. An example might be going out with friends for a meal before hitting the slopes for a morning of skiing. While you may not be hungry at the time, you are likely to become hungry over the next few hours and your body needs fuel to perform movement (skiing).

Emotional hunger is a tough one. Many of us eat mindlessly when they feel uncomfortable. As I mentioned yesterday, loneliness or aloneness has been a source of emotional hunger for me. Other emotions might include boredom or anger.

So, knowing that there are at least five types of hunger, it makes the process of identifying when and why to eat much simpler and more complicated. As for me, I am feeling gurgling, growling, and mild discomfort in my tummy. Time to eat lunch!

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