Have you ever eaten something, and then afterwards wondered why?

Maybe you weren’t actually hungry – or rather – your stomach wasn’t actually hungry. It was a different kind of hunger that was reaching out for food.

We all have many kinds of hunger:

  • Eye Hunger: “It looks so good, I just want to take a bite.”
  • Heart Hunger: “I’m feeling some emotion, and eating will lower the volume on my feeling.”
  • Mouth Hunger: “I just feel a little snacky…I want something to chew on” (this one is also connected to Heart Hunger, sometimes mouth hunger is linked to feeling bored, and wanting something to do).
  • Soul Hunger: “My spirit has a longing.”
  • Stomach Hunger: “My belly needs more food for energy.”
  • Memory hunger: “This food reminds me of my childhood – my trip to Italy, my mother – I want to re-experience that moment again.”
  • Social Hunger: “I’m hanging out with friends, and I want to have an experience of fellowship and connection.”

We all eat for many different reasons. That’s completely normal! Food is not just about nutrients and calories, it’s about connection and relationships. It’s about memories. It’s about beauty and taste, and it’s also about feelings.

Food is clearly core to our existence. We need to eat, and yet sometimes we look to food to feed parts of ourselves that cannot ever be deeply nourished by food.

This is when it’s important to ask yourself “what kind of hungry am I?”

If you can really know which hunger you are feeding, if you can really tune in to what you honestly need in that moment, you’ll be much more likely to eat the food that truly nourishes you. Plus, you’ll be happier, because your needs will be met more of the time!

So next time you are hungry, ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. Which hunger am I feeding?
  2. Will this food truly nourish that part of me?
  3. Does my hunger need something other than food to feel nourished?

If you are just not that sure which hunger is reaching for the cookie jar, here are three ways to help you to listen to your body, to see if you are actually hungry from your tummy.

  1. STOP

Close your eyes for a moment, take a breath, turn your awareness inward and….

  1. ASK!

Literally ask your body, send the words inside yourself and ask, “Am I hungry from my stomach?”

  1. WAIT and LISTEN for the answer.

You may get a clear answer, you may not (and it may take a while to get an answer), but keep asking…the answers will come. The answer may be “I am hungry for food, for sustenance” (often, a sensation in the belly, or an awareness of your energy level being low). Or, the answer may be “I am hungry for connection to people or nature, I want some mental stimulation. I want to do something fun” or “I need to feel what I am feeling or have a moment of quiet.”

Listen in, and feel what you are deeply hungry for. Only you can know what will truly satisfy your hunger.

When you deeply listen and respond to your hunger on a physical and emotional and spiritual level, you’ll have the keys to fully nourish yourself. 

Nina Manolson, M.A,. CHC, is a Certified Health Coach and Psychology of Eating coach.