5 different types of hunger

Identifying the 5 types of hunger

In Nourishing Light, we recognise five types of hunger which between them influence our eating behaviours for better or worse:


Sense Hunger
The one we probably most aware of, and the one that fuels a lot of food fantasy! Food companies, supermarkets and advertisers have become both masters and monstrous in their ability to exploit our sense hunger.

Hunger initiated via the tongue is easy to identify. How often are we hungry purely for a certain taste of something? Eye hunger and nose hunger are also strong influencers of what we eat.

Think of how the dessert trolley is used to tempt us to eat more or how just imagining the smell of baking bread can send our salivary glands into overtime! Though maybe less intense, the ears can be implicit in sense hunger too when we hear the snap of a biscuit, say, or the crunch of crisps or the clunking of cutlery against a dish.

Sense hunger helps inform our body of satiation and stimulates appetite. So it's a necessary part of our food choices and digestion, you just don't want it in charge of the show!

Emotional Hunger
Often intimately entwined with Sense Hunger and frequently linked to memory.

Emotional Hunger can be a yearning to conjure a short-term pleasant emotional experience or a way to numb out unpleasant sensations or memories, and quite often both.

It may be fairly obvious as in reaching for chocolate in response to an argument,  or not so, as in a compulsive need to keep grazing throughout the day. For some, this hunger awakens them at night and drives them to raid the fridge.

It’s not uncommon for people to start hankering after a particular dish or cake that their mum used to make when going through a tough time. Vegging out in front of the TV with a bag or two of comfort food most definitely falls into this category.

Emotional Hunger is also expertly tapped into by food companies to manipulate what and how much we eat. Think of ice- cream, alcohol, or chocolate bar adverts, how food is purposefully associated with love, togetherness, fun, power, indulgence, and reward.

This hunger is also a natural and healthy part of eating, but again, it can cause havoc when it dictates what we eat!

Mind Hunger
This is when thought determines what we eat.

Mind Hunger leans towards extremes: good foods and bad foods; shoulds and should nots; the treadmill of counting calories or grams of fat.

Thoughts such as: Start the day with a big breakfast or the ubiquitous, 'I deserve to eat this because...’.

Mind hunger causes trouble when it overrides our ability to listen to what our body actually needs! A great example of this is the tendency to eat salad all the time because we think it must be healthy.

Chemical Hunger
Chemical hunger shows itself as insatiable cravings for particular foods or as an inability to stop eating certain foods. It lurks in that experience when you’ve had plenty and you’re still hungry for more. Some highly processed foods may seem obvious to you as ‘chemical’ foods, they’re full of colours, artificial flavourings and preservatives, however, in this group I also include refined foods.

Although you may like to think otherwise, refined sugar, refined carbs (eg. white flour), refined salt and trans-fats due to the processing they go through, aren't foods at all. They are toxins and as such negatively impact the body. They are also highly addictive which is why so many of the foods that we binge on are full of them. There are meant to be. Processed food is designed for us to want more of it. 

Body Hunger
I also call this hunger True Hunger, because it never misleads.

It’s the intuitive hunger of the body and the one hunger that can stand alone. All the other hungers can mislead physical nourishment, but not this. It doesn’t mean you will only be led by Body Hunger but mainly led by it.

This is the hunger that needs to be in the driving seat with the other hungers acting as informers. This is the hunger we’re listening for, and because it’s been constantly overridden and suppressed, it is the hardest to hear. 


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