You've probably heard someone tell you before that you should just eat when you're hungry and stop eating when you're full, but even for an intuitive eater, that might actually be bad advice. That's because there isn't just one type of hunger. There aren't even two types or even three types. There are actually four different types of hunger. That's right – four! There is biological hunger, taste hunger, practical hunger, and emotional hunger.
Intuitive eating and food freedom actually involves a lot more than just eating when you feel hungry and stopping when you feel full. As I have talked about before on the podcast and as I teach in The SociEATy, intuitive eating is actually a marriage of your inner knowledge and your outer knowledge, and that marriage is going to look different for each and every person.
Because of diet culture, our biological hunger (the first type of hunger) cues can sometimes shut off because of our going such a long time not listening to them. Stress and difficult emotions can also shut them off. Don't worry, though, because there is hope! They can be turned back on! By consistently giving our bodies enough energy throughout the day, we can wake those hunger cues back up.
The second type of hunger is taste hunger, which is basically cravings (craving something sweet or craving something salty, for example). When we diet, we typically ignore this type of hunger, and that can be problematic because if we rarely or never allow ourselves to give in to cravings, then when we do give in to them, we're that much more likely to overeat because we don't know when we'll have another chance to enjoy that particular food. That's why it's so important to honor your cravings!
Practical hunger comes into play when you, for example, eat lunch at 11 even though you normally eat at noon because you have a meeting from 11:30 to 1:30. You're anticipating the extreme hunger that you're likely going to feel at 1:30 when you get out of that meeting, and you're avoiding it. This is so important because when we get really, really hungry, we are usually less likely to listen to our fullness cues, leading to overeating.
Emotional eating – the fourth and final type of hunger – is when we might, for example, eat because we are feeling blue and want a pick-me-up. This is not necessarily a bad thing and is a totally normal phenomenon. It is, however, a spectrum – with one end of it being simply looking for a minor emotional boost and the other end being eating (and maybe even overeating) to completely avoid our emotions. It is totally normal to grab a cookie or something to make yourself feel better, but it's so important to address the why behind our food choices! It's important to remember, though, that this all goes full circle back to waking up our biological hunger cues because once we wake those up and focus on them, emotional eating becomes so much easier to identify!
As I always ask my guests to do, I also offer you a few actionable tips that you can start putting into action today in order to be more mindful of these four different types of hunger and how they affect you. As always, please be sure to screenshot this episode and tag me, and please do reach out to me to share your stories, tips, and ideas! I would love to hear from you!
[1:41] – Colleen introduces the topic of this episode – the four different types of hunger.
[4:27] – Colleen defines biological hunger – your body telling you that you need to eat.
[7:08] – Colleen advises us on how to get in touch with our biological hunger and turn hunger cues back on.
[10:18] – Colleen describes the various ways that hunger cues might feel for different people.
[13:15] – Colleen begins to discuss the second type of hunger – taste hunger.
[17:36] – Colleen stresses the importance of intuitive eating involving thinking about how what you eat makes you feel, not just eating it and moving on.
[19:33] – Colleen dives into the third type of hunger – practical hunger.
[23:55] – Colleen goes over the fourth and final type of hunger – emotional hunger.
[28:36] – Colleen notes that waking up our biological hunger cues can lead to more easily identifying emotional eating.
[30:30] – Colleen brings her discussion to closure by offering us some practical tips – (1) get our hunger cues back, (2) stay present during eating, and (3) remember that everything is a learning experience.