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3 Types of Hunger and How to Satisfy Them

Physical Hunger

What is it?

Physical hunger is the type of hunger you feel in your tummy. When your body needs fuel, the hormone ghrelin is released (predominantly in the stomach) to signal to your brain an increase in appetite.

It may manifest as stomach growling, light-headedness, or the all too familiar ‘hanger’. Physical hunger is a non-specific motivation to eat; you just want to eat something that will give you energy (calories) and make you feel full.

How to satisfy it?

First things first: honour your hunger. Most (if not all) people find it difficult to function in any capacity when experiencing physical hunger. Make sure you are getting in enough calories in your day and prioritize balance in your meals by incorporating protein, fat, carbohydrates, and fibre. To achieve satiety until your next meal, have a snack that includes at least two of the following: protein, fat, and fibre.

Satisfaction Hunger

What is it?

Satisfaction hunger is what people often call cravings. Like physical hunger, satisfaction hunger is also a strong motivation to eat, but it tends to be directed at a specific food or type of food.

You might specifically want a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup or you might just really want something sweet. You might want salt-and-vinegar chips or maybe anything crunchy will suffice.

How to satisfy it?

Diet culture will have you believe that this type of hunger isn’t true hunger and that you simply need 'willpower' to 'move past it'. I’ve written an entire post on this before (see here), but to summarize, finding mental satisfaction in your food is just as important as physical fullness. Depriving yourself of this satisfaction can lead to food obsession (thinking about food all day, every day).

To satisfy this hunger, make sure to not tip-toe around your genuine desires. If you want that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, convincing yourself that a sweet apple will ‘do the trick’ will likely not work. You don’t want to fall into the trap of eating that apple, feeling unsatisfied still, then reaching for a cup of strawberries, feeling very physically full but still mentally unsatisfied, then saying, ‘screw it’ and bingeing on an entire bag of chocolate.

Remember that all foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle and your mental well-being should be just as much a priority. Don’t feel the need to restrict the foods that bring you joy. So if chocolate is what you want, eat as much you want until you feel satisfied, and then move on.

Emotional Hunger

What is it?

Emotional hunger is the drive to eat as a means to cope with negative emotions. Whether it’s innate human nature or something learned, wanting to numb your feelings with food is incredibly common. We probably have all engaged in emotional eating at one time or another.

How to satisfy it?

Firstly, if you are an emotional eater, don’t be hard on yourself. However, it’s important that it doesn’t become your only coping mechanism. Food can certainly provide comfort or distraction on a rough day, but the relief is often fleeting and it does nothing to resolve the underlying problem.

Find other kind ways to cope with hard seasons or difficult days. Allow yourself to feel the emotion and reach out to others for help if possible.

Stay nourished my friends, Robena
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