Hunger is identified as a strong desire to eat, which is also very useful in identifying the present state of mind of a person when they get a sudden “urge” to eat. Reaching out for food every time does not always mean that a person is hungry, because hunger is often governed by our thoughts, emotions and sensations.
Mindful eating, a practice in Buddhism is a way of eating based on sensual awareness of the food. It encourages us to pay attention to our food at every bite without any judgement. Mindful eating is not dependent on our emotional state (eat whenever you are sad or happy). Therefore, it helps us control our food, instead of food controlling us. When incorporated into behaviour, can help people in the long run by managing chronic diseases, sleeping problems and depression. 
Based on mindful eating, there are seven different types of hunger, all related to different organs of our body: mind, heart, eyes, nose, mouth, cells and stomach. It is said that once a person gets aware of all these different types of hunger, one can make a healthy and conscious choice of what to eat and when.
Let’s discuss all seven types of hunger.
1. Mind hunger
Mind hunger is associated with our thoughts and often comes in the form of “should or shouldn’t”. Thoughts such as “Today is my lucky day, I should grab a pastry” or “I am so sad, I want an ice-cream” are often governed by our mood and thoughts. It also includes thoughts like “I should lower my carbs”, “I should eat more proteins” and “I need to drink more water”.
The bad thing about mind hunger is that thoughts change and so do preferences of foods. Our mind changes often by getting influenced by some nutritional tips or advice by experts or some diet tips. This leaves our mind unsatisfied due to fluctuation of thoughts, resulting in overriding of the actual nutrient needs of the body.
What to do: Try to ask questions before eating. Are you eating because you are hungry? Are you eating because it’s suggested by your nutritionist friend? Will the food give me nourishment? Will the food satisfy my cravings? It is better to practise mindfulness because it will help you read the actual thoughts of your mind.
2. Heart hunger
Heart hunger is often referred to as emotional eating. It can be both positive or negative. Most of the times, you eat in response to negative emotions thinking the food will help fill the void in your heart or avoid those painful feelings for the time being.
Another example is eating food when you want to re-experience the warm feelings of connection with a memory shared between you and a particular person. For example, you may often crave for food prepared by your grandmother or mother, just to feel blissful or nostalgic of your childhood.
What to do: Deal with your emotions in a healthy way, rather than reaching out for foods every time you are happy, sad or nostalgic. Engage in physical or creative activities. Look out for other ways you can connect to a person.
3. Eye hunger
Eye hunger gets triggered when we see some tempting or delicious foods. In simple terms, it means when you can’t resist yourself from having food after looking at it. This is a strategy often played by restaurants or food supermarkets to make people grab a bite of food they are offering.
When we look at some tempting foods, our eyes first convince the mind and then commands to pass the signal to the stomach and the body, to override the feeling of fullness. This makes us eat more just to satisfy our eye hunger.
What to do: As your eyes are tempted by the beauty of the food, try shifting your focus on other beautiful things such as paintings or decorations at a place.
4. Nose hunger
The nose helps us smell – so when you suddenly smell food and get tempted, it means you are experiencing a nose hunger. The smell of your favourite dish, brewing coffee, melting butter or baking often invites a person to consume food, irrespective of whether they are actually hungry or not.
Nose hunger is often intertwined with mouth hunger. This is because when a person has a blocked nose due to cold or other problems, they also experience tastelessness during eating.
What to do: Before eating, bring the plate of food nearyour nose and patiently smell each and every ingredient. Start eating and with every bite you swallow, continue to be aware of the aroma. This may help you eat less as when you are already half-satiated with the aroma, only a small portion of food will do the remaining.
5. Mouth hunger
Mouth hunger is referred to as a feeling or desire to tasting varieties of flavours or textures of foods. Yes, it’s the same feeling, when out of nowhere, you want to taste a soft drink, or eat crunchy food or just taste something warm.
Mouth hunger, similar to mind hunger, is very difficult to satisfy as it gets bored easily. This strategy is often used by snack-food manufacturers as they prepare foods which are crunchy, buttery or is flavourful to bring water to the mouth and make people have more.
What to do: Whenever you feel mouth hunger or say, want to chew on some texture or flavour, think whether the food is healthy or not and will it be able to satisfy your hunger. Experts suggest that if you often get mouth hunger, consume more protein and whole grain foods as they will keep you full for longer and will prevent you from unnecessary binging.
6. Cellular hunger
Cellular hunger reflects what our body demands (not our mind) at a cellular level. Sometimes, when you are not eating a particular nutrient, your body will crave for food which is rich in that particular nutrient.
For example, meat and fishes are a good source of vitamin B12. When you abstain from meat products longer, you crave for them, and no matter how many other food you eat , you will always stay unsatisfied and hungry. The same goes for other foods such as water, salt, sugar, citrus or leafy vegetables.
What to do: Try listening to the body,try to know what food it craves for, and why. Focus on your eating habits and understand whether your diet is rich in all the nutrients.. Drink more water as sometimes cellular thirst is misinterpreted as cellular hunger.
7. Stomach hunger
This is referred to as a biological hunger. When we are stomach hungry, we experience sensations in the stomach such as the sound of growling. Experts say that the stomach does not say when a person is hungry, instead, it only reminds us of the eating schedule which we have incorporated according to our time of eating.
Say, we have made a habit of three times a day. Therefore, our stomach will remind us by making a growling sound at that particular time every day. This makes stomach hunger bad because we spend a lot of time eating just because it is time to eat, not because we are hungry.
What to do: Whenever you are stomach hungry, try to eat slowly and only a small portion, just to satisfy the feeling that you have had something. Also, don’t avoid the signs of the stomach if you are really hungry.
It may be difficult to resist the hunger from the aforementioned senses, but not impossible. Mindful eating habits will take time to incorporate into our lifestyles, considering our busy life schedule, but with commitment and regular practise of mindfulness, one will be able to control their unnecessary feeling of hunger and get the benefits in the long run.
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