Understanding Hunger: Types and How to Recognize Them

Understanding Hunger

Hunger is a complex phenomenon that goes beyond just physical cues from our bodies. It involves a combination of physical, emotional, and environmental factors that influence our eating behaviors. In this blog post, we’ll explore the different types of hunger and provide practical tips on how to recognize them. By understanding these nuances, you can develop a healthier relationship with food and make more mindful eating choices.

Type 1: Physical Hunger

Physical hunger is the body’s way of signaling that it needs nourishment to function properly. It typically builds gradually and is associated with physical sensations like a growling stomach, lightheadedness, or low energy levels. Physical hunger is driven by physiological needs and occurs when the body requires fuel to maintain its functions.

Recognizing Physical Hunger

  • Pay attention to physical cues such as stomach growling, feeling weak or shaky, or having difficulty concentrating.
  • Notice the timing of your hunger. Physical hunger tends to occur at regular intervals throughout the day, such as meal times.
  • Evaluate whether you’re genuinely hungry by asking yourself if you would eat something very simple and plain such as chicken breast or an apple.

Type 2: Emotional Hunger

Emotional hunger is driven by feelings rather than physical needs. It can be triggered by emotions such as stress, sadness, loneliness, or boredom. When experiencing emotional hunger, people often crave specific comfort foods that provide temporary relief from uncomfortable emotions. To better understand how your feelings drive your food choices, try using Revolution Health’s Food & Feelings Journal for 3-5 days.

 Recognizing Emotional Hunger

  • Pause and assess your emotions before reaching for food. Are you feeling stressed, anxious, or upset?
  • Notice if your hunger came on suddenly or if it’s tied to a specific emotional trigger.
  • Consider whether the food you’re craving is providing comfort rather than nourishment.

Type 3: Environmental Hunger

Environmental factors, such as the time of day, the presence of food cues, or social situations, can trigger hunger even when you’re not physically hungry. For example, the smell of food cooking or seeing a commercial for your favorite snack can stimulate your appetite.

Recognizing Environmental Hunger

  • Pay attention to cues in your environment that may trigger hunger, such as the sight or smell of food.
  • Notice if you’re eating simply because food is available or because others around you are eating.
  • Practice mindfulness and distinguish between true physical hunger and external cues that influence your eating behaviors.

Type 4: Mouth Hunger

Mouth hunger, also known as taste hunger, occurs when you’re drawn to specific flavors, textures, or tastes. Cravings for sweet, salty, or crunchy foods fall into this category. Mouth hunger is often driven by sensory pleasure rather than physiological need.

Recognizing Mouth Hunger

  • Notice if you’re craving a specific taste or texture, such as something sweet or crunchy.
  • Pay attention to whether your desire to eat is based on the sensory appeal of food rather than physical hunger cues.
  • Experiment with healthier alternatives that satisfy your cravings while still nourishing your body.


By understanding the different types of hunger and learning to recognize them, you can develop greater awareness of your eating habits. It is one of several steps to becoming an intuitive eater. Instead of relying solely on physical cues, consider the emotional, environmental, and sensory factors that may influence your hunger and food choices. By practicing mindfulness and listening to your body, you can cultivate a healthier relationship with food and make choices that support your overall well-being. Remember, understanding hunger will take time and patience with yourself!

Looking for additional support? Join the Dumbbells & Donuts Facebook community. This is a free group for women struggling with food (overeating, binge eating, and emotional eating), fitness, and body image.