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Honoring the Different Kinds of Hunger

Hunger is a complex and powerful feeling that is not limited to just physical need. It can be triggered by different factors, too, like emotions, nutritional deficiencies and environmental cues. In the world of Intuitive eating, hunger can be broken down into four types, each with its own unique catalysts and characteristics. 


Physical hunger is the most basic type of hunger and the one we are all the most familiar with. It is triggered by the need for energy and nutrients in our body. We often associatw this type of hunger with a gnawing, growling or empty sensation in the belly, but it can take on other physical symptoms, too, such as fatigue, moodiness, dizziness, headaches, or even just more frequent thoughts about food. It is important to nourish our body with healthy and nutritious foods to satisfy our physical hunger.


Emotional hunger, on the other hand, is when we have an unmet emotional need or unexpressed emotion that manifests as a desire to eat food. It's using food as a tool to cope with feelings - positive or negative ones. It also gets a really bad rap, but in emotional hunger is valid and can be used effectively if it's one of many tools in your coping tool box and is done mindfully.  





Practical hunger is a little bit different because it isn't actually a true hunger, but instead, more of an anticipatory hunger. It's like making yourself use the bathroom before a long car ride: you might not feel like you need to, but you're hoping to avoid future discomfort or inconvenience. Practical hunger is awareness of your body and upcoming schedule so that you eat ahead of true, physical hunger if you know that you won't have access to food for some small amount of time, like during a flight or if you have a specific, timed break during which to eat. It's okay to eat when you're not fully hungry sometimes when you know it's serving your body's greater good to avoid uncomfortable and distracting physical hunger symptoms when you know you won't be able to assuage them. 


Lastly, environmental hunger/taste hunger is triggered by external factors such as the sight or smell of food, advertisements, or social situations. While this type of hunger has the potential to lead to mindless eating and overconsumption of food, it can be done with mindfulness and without shame. It's okay to eat something because we want to, especially when we come to trust ourselves and don't approach foods with a restrictive or avoidant mindset.


Hunger is a powerful and multifaceted feeling that we all experience daily and for different reasons. It can be triggered by different factors, such as physical need, emotions, nutritional deficiencies, or environmental cues. However, hunger can also be an opportunity for growth and self-discovery. By listening to our body's signals of hunger and nourishing ourselves with healthy and nutritious foods, we can fuel our body and mind to reach our full potential. Let us embrace hunger as a reminder of our innate power and resilience, and use it as a catalyst for positive change in our lives.

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