Hunger is the natural signal of the body to tell us that we should eat something. But not all forms of hunger are equal. Wait, are there different types of hunger? YES! But before we go further, let’s understand why we eat.
Why do we eat?
We don’t eat because we are hungry. Hunger is just a signal. We eat because our body requires a variety of nutrients to function at its best. Food provides us with the necessary macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fats) but also with vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) so we can survive.
The human body is an amazing machine and science is far from understanding its full complexity. But what we know is that without nutrients, we can’t live. So we need to eat to nourish our body. But is that always the reason we eat?
Well, you know the answer.
We eat as a habit. Sometimes we don’t really think much further, I always eat this in the morning at 10 AM, I don’t really know why but I am not ready to stop anytime soon. We also eat in social situations, to feel part of the group or to please the person who is offering the food. We also eat because we simply like the taste or the smell of certain food. And we eat for pleasure.
What is food actually?
“Any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink or that plants absorb in order to maintain life and growth.” Oxford’s English Dictionary
There are 2 key aspects of the definition: Nutritious substance + maintain life and growth
If we keep this definition in mind and look inside our supermarket, we can see that a lot of items are sold as food which is actually not real food. But I’ll keep the truth on the manipulation from the food industry for another blog.
How long can we go without food?
There are 5 core physiological needs that our body requires for survival: air, water, food, shelter, and sleep.
The rule of 3 gives a good indication of how long we can go without any of them.
You can survive about:
3 min without air
3 hours without shelter (in a harsh environment)
3 days without water
3 weeks without food
As you can see, food is essential but actually not a priority in our survival. A well-nourished person can go easily for a few days without food. And it is actually quite beneficial for the body. That’s what we call fasting.
The longer you don’t eat the more the body will empty its nutrient reserves until eventually there is nothing left and stops working. But it doesn’t happen in a few hours!
I hear countless times people saying, but “I should eat something”, “I didn’t eat anything today, that’s really bad”.
If you are well-nourished there is absolutely nothing to worry about. Our body is amazing at stocking and releasing the nutrients you need when you need them.
The 6 Human Hungers
WILDFIT describes 6 different types of hunger that we commonly experience.
Thirst: Our ancestors didn’t have plastic bottles or even pottery to carry water around. For the biggest part of human evolution, we got our water from plants. So when the body is thirsty, we might just experience hunger!
Variety: To function optimally the body needs a variety of macro- and micronutrients. Because the full range of what we need is not present in just one sort of food, the body naturally craves variety in the diet. If we are always eating the same food, the body will make us feel hungry for something different.
Low-blood Sugar: Have you ever experienced being hungry after eating a cereal bar or a bowl of cereals? Low-quality sugars make our blood sugar spike before crashing. This rise and fall can make us feel hungry, even though we just ate.
Emotional Hunger: Do you eat with pleasure or for pleasure? Emotional hunger is a really dangerous type of dysfunctional eating, and unfortunately it affects most of us today. The food industry worked very hard to connect food and emotions together. When we celebrate we drink champagne, when we have a party we eat cake, when we are sad we eat chocolate, when we are lonely we eat ice cream, etc. Everybody creates his own set of rules and meaning with food. Although you can basically not really be hungry for something that doesn’t nourish you, we too often try to soothe an emotional need by eating something, even though it is not really effective.
Empty Stomach Hunger: In the past, food was not as abundant all year round as it is today. Our ancestors had to face periods of scarcity and periods of abundance, depending on the natural seasons. To survive it was essential that we eat every time possible. To help us survive we develop a stomach that can stretch and a desire to eat every time it is empty.
But nowadays, there is plenty of food all year round and we do not need to overeat every time we see food. Empty stomach hunger is not real hunger, but a sensation.
Nutritional Hunger: This is the only genuine form of hunger, it is the signal that the body is in need of some nutrients. This is the survival mechanism to keep us well-nourished and alive.
The Hunger Game
Now that you have learned about the different human hungers, the trick is to be able to recognize them when you feel hungry. The best way to identify which hunger you are experiencing is by doing what is necessary to eliminate most of them.
The majority of the people is slightly dehydrated on a daily basis. We don’t receive a lot of water from our food anymore so it is essential to keep drinking all day long. With WILDFIT we recommend you drink between 6 to 8 glasses of water per day (2 to 3L).
Start your day by nourishing yourself well and make sure to eat a large variety of fruits and vegetables. Try new things, experiment with new recipes! Focus on having enough of the good stuff. Avoid eating low-quality sugary food and processed food. Focus on whole fresh foods instead.
If you are craving for something that doesn’t nourish you, observe your emotional state and identify what the feeling is that you are after. Then do something that will really help you feel better.
Example: you feel lonely and you want to have some chocolate. Call or meet with a friend that will satisfy your need for connection better than chocolate. Recognize the empty stomach hunger just by asking yourself if you ate a good nutritional meal before.
The 6 Human Hungers is a powerful tool to understand why we are hungry and the first step towards food freedom. Now, better than doing it alone, you can join my next group to complete the WILDFIT 90 Day Challenge to regain your health and change your relationship with food for good.