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What are the Types of Hunger?

What Type of Hunger Are You Experiencing?


We don’t always eat because of genuine hunger, our food cravings are often linked to things that have nothing to do with whether we are actually hungry. This means that a lot of us don’t know when we are really hungry or completely full, mostly because this encourages us to engage in mindless eating rather than listening to our bodies.

Before working with clients to reframe their thought processes and reduce cognitive distortions, clients need to understand the difference between types of hunger. Being aware of them and why they are important helps you to tune into your body and develop a more mindful approach to eating.

Biological Hunger

The feeling is all too familiar: a growling in the pit of your stomach that usually starts around late morning when breakfast is just a memory and lunchtime is still a tiny speck on the horizon. It’s hunger – a feeling that begins with the hormone known as ghrelin. Once your body has finished digesting and using up the energy from your last meal, your blood sugar and insulin levels drop. In response to this, ghrelin is produced in the gut and travels to the brain, letting it know that sustenance is needed. The brain then commands the release of a second hormone called neuropeptide Y, which stimulates appetite.

Once you have answered the call and filled up on a good meal, your stomach gets to work on digestion. Nerves in your stomach sense stretching that lets your brain know you’re full up. Three other hormones also secreted by your digestive system take messages to the brain: cholecystokinin (CCK), GLP-1, and PYY. CCK helps to improve digestion by slowing down the rate at which food is emptied from the stomach into the small intestine, as well as stimulating the production of molecules that help to break down food. GLP-1 tells the pancreas to release more insulin and also reduces appetite. The hormone PYY is secreted into the bloodstream by the small intestine after eating. It binds to receptors in the brain to make you feel full up. Once all of the food is digested, the blood sugar and insulin levels drop and ghrelin is produced once more, so the hunger cycle continues.

Hunger signals a biological need for energy. Ignoring it regularly can trigger overeating. Getting to the point of intense hunger will make it hard, if not impossible to eat with the moderation weight loss requires. Honoring that hunger signal and not seeing it as an enemy will help lay the foundation of trust between you and your food.

Taste Hunger

Taste hunger occurs when you have a taste for a specific food that may present outside of physical hunger or alongside it. Basically, taste hunger is when food just sounds good. An example of pure taste hunger might be when you’ve just eaten a satisfying meal at a restaurant, see the dessert menu, and feel taste hungry when you see something appealing on it. Remember, taste hunger is valid hunger. You are allowed to eat when you’re not hungry, but just because something looks or sounds good. However, when you know more tasty foods are coming, you might not feel an urgency to fulfill every taste hunger you experience.

Emotional Hunger

Emotional hunger is also sometimes referred to as psychological hunger or emotional eating – we feel driven to consume something (mostly comfort foods) because of an emotional upset or concern. Stress eating is also a form of emotional hunger. Emotional eating affects both men and women. It may be caused by a number of factors, including stress, hormonal changes, or mixed hunger cues.

Do you find yourself racing to the pantry when you’re feeling down or otherwise upset? Finding comfort in food is common, and it’s part of a practice called emotional eating or emotional hunger. Negative emotions may lead to a feeling of emptiness or an emotional void. People who emotionally eat reach for food to suppress and soothe negative feelings. Food is believed to be a way to fill that void and create a false feeling of “fullness” or temporary wholeness. They may even feel guilt or shame after eating this way, leading to a cycle of excess eating and associated issues, like weight gain.

There is an inherent pleasure and a desire to feel emotionally satisfied derived from eating. Eating delicious and fulfilling foods should not be something to avoid; on the contrary, feeling consistently satisfied from eating something you really want to eat can create a more conducive environment to eating more moderately. Find ways that are unrelated to food to deal with your feelings, such as taking a walk, meditating, journaling, or calling a friend. Become aware of the times when a feeling that you might call hunger is really based on emotion.

Practical Hunger

Practical hunger is eating in a preparative or preventative way, such as eating when you aren’t hungry but you know you will get hungry or you won’t be able to eat later.

For example, you have a client who runs six miles. Although they don’t feel hungry after completing the workout, they likely need to get a combination of carbs and protein to optimize recovery. Or let’s say you wake up for work but you aren’t very hungry for breakfast; however, you still make sure you grab a bite to eat because you know you won’t have time to eat at work until lunchtime.

Also, practical hunger is important to rely on when you’re overly busy or unable to listen to your internal cues – it’s more important to eat regularly, as your body & mind need the fuel, and really appreciate the consistency. You can begin reframing thought patterns by helping clients grow in their understanding of what types of hunger they experience throughout the day and week.

Getting Started

This is where mindfulness comes in (similar to honoring your hunger). Paying attention to the signals that you are no longer hungry might require slowing down, or tuning out of the conversation to tune in to the body, or a full-on pause in the meal to notice how the food tastes, chewing it fully and determining if you have eaten enough to feel full.

If you want to help clients with food, diet, weight management and improving the results of their fitness routines, the Fitness Nutrition Coach course is for you. You will learn about optimal nutrition, including proven techniques for increasing energy, optimal health and decreased dependence on medications. Instantly increase your job and career opportunities with this popular professional credential.

You can become a Certified Personal Fitness Chef and expand your current personal chef business, or add a new profit center for your fitness or wellness business. Many personal chefs cook and coach people in groups to help more people and earn more money per hour. Some chefs provide weekly meal prep services for health-minded customers and athletes.

If you are a health and fitness pro, the knowledge you’ll gain in Holistic Nutrition Coach Certification is the missing key to help your clients reduce that fatigue, lack of recovery or inflammation your clients want solved.

If you currently offer nutrition coaching/consulting, you will want to add these skills and this credential to your resume.

Check out what it takes to start a career in personal fitness training. This is your most affordable and fastest way to become a highly qualified personal trainer.

NESTA coaching programs are open to anyone with a desire to learn and help others. There are no prerequisites.

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