Why are you eating?

Because you’re hungry, you say? Well, what kind of hunger? That’s the question that Chapter 2 of Jan Chozen Bays’ Mindful Eating explores. Bays starts by reminding us that, as young children, we had a instinctual sense of what and how much to eat. As we grew up, we lost that innate sense as we became members of the “clean plate club,” as we ate what our friends were eating, as we rebelled against our parents’ food rules.
But who or what shaped our current eating patterns doesn’t matter now, she says. It’s over. What’s done is done. If we want to change our relationship with food, we can, but it’s all up to us.
“It is possible, through the power of awareness, to unfreeze reactive habit patterns and shift in a very natural way toward health.”
From there, she discusses the Seven Kinds of Hunger, how to become aware of which kind you’re feeling when you feel hungry, and how to satisfy them in a healthy way.
  1. Eye Hunger. This is what happens when you finish a big restaurant meal, and are full, but as soon as you see the dessert tray, you’re suddenly “hungry” for dessert. This is also the type of hunger that makes you want to fill up a big plate, even if it’s way more food than you need, or even really want.
  2. Nose Hunger. This is when you walk past a bakery, smell pastries, and suddenly become hungry for pastries, even if you were perfectly satisfied a minute ago.
  3. Mouth Hunger. This is when you keep eating past the point of fullness, because the food tastes good (aka, your mouth is still hungry for sensation). This is also what happens when you eat mindlessly…suddenly, you’re done with your food, and although your stomach is satisfied, your mouth isn’t.
  4. Stomach Hunger. Aka, true hunger. Many people don’t even know what true hunger feels like, because we so often eat because of the other kinds of hunger.
  5. Cellular Hunger. This is when our body craves food that has some nutrient we need. This happens to me when I’ve eaten too much less-than-healthy food in a short timespan (like on vacation or over the holidays), I start physically craving things like vegetables and fruits and plain yogurt and oatmeal. 
  6. Mind Hunger. This is when we become hungry for something because we heard about it or read about it. This includes hunger for foods that we think we should be eating, or hunger for foods we see in a cookbook or magazine.
  7. Heart Hunger. This is when you are hungry for foods that make you feel loved and cared for. When you eat because you are sad or lonely, you are eating to try to ease heart hunger.
Now there’s some “food for thought”!