Understanding Hunger – Mindful Eating

We have found ourselves saying, “I am always hungry” or “I don’t feel hungry at all”. Hunger – this is such a common word that we’ve lived all our lives with and yet, we don’t truly understand the term completely. It is this hunger that makes us eat, not eat or over eat. We’ve heard people tell us, “Eat only till you’re full”. Yet, we tend to stuff ourselves, saying our hunger is insatiable. And end up gaining weight because of the calorie surplus.

Seems like a simple thing, yet we go wrong. Today, let’s understand hunger better to help resort to Mindful Eating for a healthier and fitter body.

What is Hunger?

Let’s just establish this – there’s Physical Hunger (actual, body hunger) and then there’s your appetite (a craving / hunger pang that rises due to many other reasons).

More often than not, you tend to eat for your appetite and not your bodily needs. And this is when your health and fitness goes in for a toss.

Over time, given the stress, lifestyle and food options, we have lost the sensitivity to true stomach hunger. So let’s try and understand the various types of hungers. This will help us eat right for a healthier body and at the right times.

Types of Hunger

  • Physical Hunger (Stomach/ Real Hunger)

This is the most important type of hunger—it tells you when you must eat! It makes you feel physical signs like shakiness from low blood sugar, a headache, low energy, or a grumbling stomach.

  • Emotional Hunger (Heart Hunger/Appetite)

This happens due to emotional distress or peak in emotions (anger, sadness, anxiety, happiness, etc.) or excessive stress, where you tend to eat and resort to “comfort food” to make you feel good and to take your mind off the stressing or to celebrate.

  • Teeth Hunger

Sometimes, especially if we’re feeling irritated or stressed, we want to chew our frustrations away. Our bodies are not calling for food, but we put it in our mouths as an attempt to relieve anxiety.

  • Mouth Hunger

We see or smell something that looks so delicious that our mouths start to water. Sometimes just thinking about a food brings on a craving for it. We desire to taste the food, but really aren’t physically hungry.

  • Timed Hunger

We look at the clock and think we have to eat a certain amount of food because “it’s time”, even if we don’t feel like eating.


  • Thirst

Sometimes we confuse the sluggishness of dehydration with actual hunger. The body is calling for fluids, not food.

  • Fatigue

When we sense that our energy levels are low, some of us automatically think that if we eat something, we’ll feel better. However, if we’ve been working extra hard and/or haven’t been getting enough sleep, our bodies are calling for rest, not food.

  • Screen Hunger

Given the advertisements, our brains have been wired to munch on something while watching a movie in a theatre or TV at home. This is just the psychological hunger that has sprouted out of the many advertisement putting out the subtle messaging.

  • Bored Hunger

Often, you will find yourself standing in the kitchen, trying to figure out what to eat only because you are bored. Our mind resorts to this trick to help us out of the boredom where you eat on one hand and also stay distracted.

So you see, in all true sense, what out body actually needs is to satiate the true, physical hunger. Anything beyond this makes us over eat and add on those extra calories.

How much to eat?


You will know when your physical symptoms start kicking in. To understand how much to eat, go slower. Eat smaller bites and chew them well. The body takes some time to digest the food. When you eat slowly, the body is given the opportunity to send you the signal that it is full. You must stop eating then in order to avoid over eating.

To understand if you’re over eating –

  1. You will not enjoy the food
  2. Your stomach may bloat/hurt
  3. You feel nauseous

What if I’m always Physically Hungry?

Increased appetite can result from:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • PMS
  • Pregnancy
  • Hyperthyroidism, or Hypothyroidism
  • Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar
  • Diabetes

In such cases, especially if changes in your appetite are accompanied by other symptoms, it is recommended that you consult your doctor immediately.

With the types of hunger broken down, I hope this helps you in Mindful Eating and giving the right food to your body in right amounts and at right times. Remember, whenever you’re hungry, take a moment to ask yourself what kind of hunger it is and proceed only then. If you have any other doubts, drop a comment below and I will be happy to help.



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3 thoughts on “Understanding Hunger – Mindful Eating

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