Understanding Why You Eat What You Eat


Food is all around you. You eat for enjoyment, when you are hungry, when you are bored, celebrating, sad; and the list goes on.

Sometimes it is difficult to know WHY you are being pulled toward a particular food in a particular moment and end up eating “just because." Identifying the kind of hunger you are experiencing is an effective way to gauge your emotional versus physical hunger. Many times it can feel the same. By breaking down what it is that you're feeling, you may be able to detect what kind of hunger you are experiencing and potentially stop an emotional eating episode before it starts.
Here are the seven different types of hunger:
         1. Eye Hunger:  Eye hunger is when you SEE a tempting-looking food, and then you want it. The cookies at the office are a perfect example. You probably walked into the break room without thinking about eating a cookie, but as soon as you see it, you want one.
         2. Nose hunger: Nose hunger can also be thought of as the “Cinnabon effect.” You’re walking in the mall when you're suddenly hit with the sweet smell of fresh-baked cinnamon rolls. You hadn’t thought about it beforehand, but as soon as that scent hits your nose, you can only think of eating one.
         3. Mouth hunger: Have you ever craved something crunchy or creamy? It didn’t really matter what it was, as long as it promised to provide a crunch or smoothness. Mouth hunger is the craving for foods that will provide us with a specific sensation in our mouths.
         4. Stomach hunger: Stomach hunger is the most obvious type of hunger and the most commonly identified. When your stomach is empty and growling for food, your body is telling you that you have a physical need for energy and nourishment.
         5. Mind hunger: Mind hunger is all about “shoulds.” Usually mind hunger consists things that you have heard about nutrition and healthy eating. I “should” eat some vegetables. I “should” eat more protein. The more we pay attention to dietary advice from the media, the more mind hunger can come into play.
         6. Cellular hunger: Have you ever been on a vacation where you indulged in rich food and drink? Many times, after several days of indulgent eating, you start to crave a simple meal. This is your body's wisdom; your cells are telling you what they need.
         7. Heart Hunger: Heart hunger is responsible for emotional eating. When you eat because you’re sad, or because you’re lonely, or because you’re feeling unfulfilled, you are experiencing heart hunger.

Here is a simple mindful eating exercise that will help you get present and clear about your eating urges right now:
This is a writing exercise you can practice before, during and after a meal. Doing so may help you tune into any emotions you are experiencing throughout a meal that may be creating an urge to over eat. The more you understand about your triggers and how certain emotions can trigger specific reactions, the more prepared you can feel when you go into a meal.
These are some simple questions to ask yourself before, during and after any meal.
Before meals:

  • Describe the emotion you are currently experiencing before beginning this meal 
  • Gage your hunger/fullness cues

During meals:

  • Describe the emotion you are currently experiencing while eating this meal
  • Gage your hunger/fullness cues

After meals:

  • Describe the emotion you are currently experiencing now that you have finished this meal
  • Gage your hunger/fullness cues

Using this guide can help you tune in to your eating habits and develop a clearer sense of whether you are eating out of hunger, or if it's emotionally driven. As you practice these techniques, you will strengthen your understanding of your hunger cues, and what may be triggering them.

(Source: Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food by Jan Chozen Bays)