A different type of hunger

April 8, 2010

Over the past several years, I’ve realized the importance of paying attention to physical  and emotional hunger and trying to understand the difference between the two.

Physical hunger, which includes physical signs of hunger such as hunger pangs, emptiness, irritability, and low energy, is your body’s way of telling you that you need to eat.  It often occurs several hours after a meal and goes away when you get full. On the other hand, emotional hunger involves eating to cope with an emotional state such as stress, sadness, boredom, or happiness, and usually has no relation to your body’s physical hunger or fullness levels, and often leads to feelings of guilt and shame.

But, recently through The Center for Mindful Eating, I’ve learned about a different type of hunger- Sensory hunger. Sensory hunger is a hunger that we might experience when food is in our presence. It involves hunger that we may feel simply by seeing food (eye hunger), smelling food (nose hunger), tasting and feeling the food in your mouth (mouth hunger), and hearing food (sound hunger). 

I think this is so interesting! When I was young and I would overfill my plate with food, my mom would always say, “You’ll never eat all of that. Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”  Now, I know that I was probably experiencing “eye hunger”.  I often see this with my clients as well.  They will complain that they can’t stop eating even though they are full and they are not using food to cope with emotions.  They often say, “It just tastes so good, I can’t stop.”  They are experiencing “taste hunger”. 

 I’m sure we have all experienced sensory hunger at one time or another, possibly every single day! So, the next time you feel hunger, take a moment to think about what type of hunger YOU are feeling.

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