Get to Know your Hungers

If you’ve ever investigated intuitive eating you’re familiar with its four types of hunger, which help people identify the reasons why they want to eat. Even when you’re not embracing that particular way of eating this is a good concept to learn.


This is the real thing, and you tend to notice it gradually, at least a few hours after you last ate.

This includes the classic signals such as your thoughts turning to food in general, losing your focus, your stomach growling, feeling a little lightheaded, shaky or tired and in need of some sort of energy boost.

You could feel like wolfing down just about anything, but it’s still better to choose something nutritious and satisfying.


This is the downfall of so many people who try to lose weight. It’s often more powerful than physical hunger.

It hits you with full force instead of creeping up on you, usually when you’re dealing with stressful feelings or situations, whether it’s loneliness, depression, anxiety or even boredom.

It may have been just an hour or two since your last meal or snack and you’re seeking some sort of solace or relief, or you may be celebrating or socializing in a way that’s ultimately doing more harm than good.

Self-care, identifying your feelings and looking for another way to process them, a nonfood activity like a walk or a hobby or talking to a friend or counselor are the best alternatives.


It’s the trickiest hunger of all because it can accompany a physical or emotional hunger or occur outside of those, maybe after you’ve just eaten and happen to see someone else’s dessert pass you by.

You can still treat yourself, but it may be easier to hold off when you remind yourself there will be plenty more chances for you to experience that taste beyond this moment.


When you’re waiting to board a 3-hour flight in the afternoon, do you eat an early dinner because you’re not sure what your in-flight options will be, or you do but you don’t like them? That’s practical hunger.

Planning to eat at certain times of the day before you get hungry can be useful for those who aren’t great at identifying their other cues.