Should I Eat? Identifying Head Hunger vs Stomach Hunger

It is noon and you are hungry. Although…..are you really? You had a snack at 10, but the clock says it is lunch time. What do you do? Most people decide to eat because some external force tells them they should. Whether it is the clock, a commercial, driving past your favorite fast food restaurant or uncomfortable emotions, many of us do not rely on our stomach to tell us we are hungry. Often when talking about eating, I will ask someone if they felt hungry. They honestly can’t tell me because they didn’t notice. I have even had some ask what hunger has to do with eating. Well, therein lies some of the problem. We are so out of touch with hunger that we don’t know what it feels like. It is almost as if we fear the sensation of being hungry, so we avoid it at all cost. Here are the signs of physical hunger:

Signs of physical hunger:

  • Stomach growling
  • Hunger pangs
  • Headache
  • Light headed
  • Any food would satisfy you

What is head hunger? Head hunger is everything that tells us we “should” eat. Everything other than our stomach, that is! Head hunger is generally based on emotions. Often I will ask someone what they were feeling before they ate when they weren’t hungry and they can’t tell me. They generally say they weren’t feeling anything, but I never buy it. There is ALWAYS an emotional trigger. The trouble here is that we have conditioned ourselves to avoid emotion to the point that we don’t even know what we feel anymore. We are on autopilot so that we shut emotion down with food at the first inkling we are feeling it. Signs of Head Hunger:

Head hunger:

  • Cravings
  • Hunger comes on suddenly
  • Only certain foods will do
  • Preoccupation with getting certain foods
  • Feelings of shame and/or guilt

The next time you are faced with a meal or snack, check in with yourself and ask if you are legitimately hungry. If you are, eat! If not, figure out what is triggering the urge.

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Weber State University and a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Utah. She has been working in the mental health field since 2001.
Michelle Lewis

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