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Different types of hunger

Hunger is a complex and multifaceted physical sensation that is felt in the body. Understanding the types of hunger and their impact on human health can be helpful for reconnecting with your own hunger cues, especially when recovering from an eating disorder. In this article, we will delve into the different types of hunger, including physical and emotional hunger, how eating disorders affect your appetite, and how to determine when you’re actually hungry.

Last updated on 
October 12, 2023
Types of hunger
In this article

Types of hunger

When discussing the different types of hunger, it’s important to first understand what drives your appetite. Appetite is the desire to consume food and it is regulated by your brain and hormones, such as ghrelin and leptin, which control hunger and fullness signals.1 Various internal and external factors can influence your appetite, and these tend to present as three different types of hunger: physical hunger, emotional hunger, and sensory hunger.

Physical hunger
Emotional hunger
Sensory hunger

How can eating disorders affect your appetite and satiety levels?

Eating disorders can significantly alter appetite by disrupting hormonal signals and decreasing or increasing hunger cues.1 Individuals with a restrictive eating disorder, like anorexia nervosa, may experience a reduced appetite, while those with binge eating disorder may have difficulty recognizing satiety signals, leading to overeating.3

Satiety and eating disorders

Satiety is the feeling of fullness and satisfaction experienced after consuming a meal.4 Appetite and satiety work in tandem for regulating food intake and maintaining healthy eating habits. Eating disorders can disrupt satiety signals, leading to overeating or undereating, depending on the specific disorder.3 For example, individuals with bulimia nervosa may not experience satiety during binge episodes, resulting in excessive food consumption, followed by compensatory behaviors such as purging or over-exercising.3

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Early satiety, on the other hand, is the sensation of feeling full before consuming an adequate amount of food, which can disrupt healthy eating patterns.2

Learn about mindful and intuitive eating practices to help with disordered eating habits.

Causes of early satiety can be both physical, such as gastrointestinal disorders, and psychological, including anxiety or stress. To manage early satiety, individuals can try eating smaller, frequent meals and avoiding foods that trigger discomfort.

How can you determine when you’re actually hungry?

If you're struggling with an eating disorder, connecting with your satiety levels and cues can be challenging.

Eat slowly and mindfully

Take your time while eating, chew your food thoroughly, and savor the taste and texture of each bite. This can help you become more aware of your body's fullness signals and prevent overeating or undereating.

Keep a food journal

Track your hunger and fullness levels before and after each meal. This practice can help you identify patterns and better understand your body's signals.

Establish regular eating patterns

Aim to eat balanced meals and snacks at consistent times throughout the day. This can help regulate your appetite and make it easier to recognize hunger and fullness cues.

Practice mindful eating

Focus on the experience of eating by paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations during meals. This can help you develop a healthier relationship with food and become more attuned to your body's needs.

Listen to your body

Pay attention to your body's hunger and fullness cues, and try to respond to them without judgment or shame. Remember that it's normal to want to eat when you feel hungry, it's normal to feel full, and it's essential to honor these signals for a healthy relationship with food.

Stay hydrated

Drinking water throughout the day can help regulate your appetite and ensure that you're not mistaking thirst for hunger.

Avoid distractions

Eating without distractions, like watching TV or using your phone, can help you focus on your meal and better recognize when you're full.

Seek professional support

If you're consistently struggling to connect with your satiety levels and cues, consider seeking the help of a registered dietitian, therapist, or support group specializing in eating disorders. They can provide guidance and resources to help you on your journey toward recovery.

Remember that connecting with your satiety levels and cues is a process that takes practice, time, and patience. Be kind to yourself while continuing to work on developing a healthier relationship with food and your body. If you need additional support, Within is here to help

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.

Resources

  1. Listening to your hunger cues. (2021, September 21). Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved June 8, 2023.
  2. Weight loss: Gain control of emotional eating. (2022, Dec 2). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved June 8, 2023.
  3. Ziauddeen, H., Farooqi, I. & Fletcher, P. (2012). Obesity and the brain: how convincing is the addiction model? Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 13, 279–286 (2012). 
  4. Benelam, B. (2009). Satiation, satiety and their effects on eating behaviour. Nutrition Bulletin, 34(2), 126-173. Retrieved June 8, 2023.

FAQs

What are the different types of hunger? 

The different types of hunger are physical hunger, emotional hunger, and sensory hunger.

What is satiety?

Satiety is the feeling of fullness and satisfaction experienced after consuming a meal.

What is early satiety?

Early satiety is the sensation of feeling full before consuming an adequate amount of food, which can disrupt healthy eating patterns.

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