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6 Types of Hunger: How to Know if You are Really Hungry – Part 1

Taming our appetites can be quite a job. So often we feel like we are hungry but are we really?  It’s our brains not tummies that often fool us to think we are hungry when often we may be just bored. 

Do you know how to tell if you are really hungry, so you don’t consume unnecessary calories? Did you know there are really many different types of hunger? Let’s talk about the 6 types of hunger, and how to deal with it and stay on track with your goals.

6 Types of Hunger

1. Sugar Hunger: Symptoms include craving high sugar foods or feeling “hungry” soon after eating a meal. If you just had a big meal that is high in simple carbohydrates and did not contain fiber, protein, or healthy fat, all of which help provide a sense of satiety, you may have experienced a drop in blood sugar. In this case, it’s not hunger. It’s best to ignore it but if you must have something, go for a piece of fresh fruit, nuts, celery, or peanut butter instead of a dessert.

2. Emotional Hunger: Who hasn’t felt hungry when we experiencing boredom, fear, anxiety, stress, or loneliness? Instead of reaching for a snack, consider taking a walk, journaling, listening to your favorite music, calling a friend, or chewing a piece of mint gum instead. Read a book, go to a “safe place” like a library or museum or park where you will not be tempted to overeat or distracted by food. Take a bath, meditate, or think about what REALLY would satisfy you, vs. eating to stuff down emotions you do not want to confront.

3. Sleep Hunger: Two major hormones, leptin, and ghrelin, affect and control sensations of hunger and fullness in our bodies. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin, made in fat cells, alerts the brain that you have had enough to eat. Lack of sleep causes a significant drop in leptin levels and increases ghrelin levels, a so-called double whammy for appetite control and feelings of satiety.

4. Fatigue Hunger: Daytime fatigue is another reason you overeat (often, high sugar, nutrient poor foods) so you can get that extra surge of energy. This is no different than putting a Band-Aid on the true problem. It provides only temporary relief, followed by energy crash and a resurgence of “hunger” leading to more snacking, increased sugar cravings. If you are feeling mid-afternoon hunger pains, try taking a brisk 10 min walk around the block (fresh air helps, as does exercise, to boost alertness and increase circulation), a cup of green tea (high in antioxidants and low in caffeine relative to coffee), a 1/4 cup of almonds and a small apple (high in protein, healthy fat and carbohydrates, low in sugar, and a good source of magnesium and fiber). Even taking a few deep breaths can help curb fatigue!

5. Thirst Hunger: We often mistake thirst for hunger. Try drinking a glass or two of water to see if you are truly hungry or just slightly dehydrated, in which case water is the perfect antidote!

6. True Hunger: When you are really experiencing true hunger, it’s not that hard to identify.  A growling tummy will cause us to be cranky and unfocused. If it’s been four hours since your last meal or snack, you may well be truly hungry. Don’t ignore true hunger, you will tend to overeat at your next meal to compensate for the missed calories, and that leads to weight gain. It is important to eat regularly and consistently to keep energy levels elevated and avoid dips in blood sugar. Veggies at each meal and snack are a must, along with some protein (lean meat/poultry/fish/eggs) and some healthy fat (avocado, olives, nuts, oil). Trust me, whole foods and regular meals will keep your body lean and you won’t feel fake hunger.  

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