Hungry? Are you sure? Or are you just eating again. Many of us have forgotten what true hunger feels like. Try this mindfulness approach to know for real!

1:Get Present

Attention: Focus your awareness on the present moment. Get off the device. Move your mind from nowhere, to now-here.

Breathe:Take a few full, conscious breaths. Feel the physical sensations in your body as you breathe.  Move out of your mental narrative to calmly and directly experience life as it is.

Curiosity:  Become actively curious about what is happening in your body, mind and emotions.

Put your mind in your belly – what do you notice? Now go to your heart and head – what do you perceive? Being an engaged, nonjudgmental observer of your experience, like a scientist gathering data, will increase perceptiveness.

2:Name your Hunger

Science and mindfulness experts talk about several hunger types. Which are you experiencing?

  1. Visual Hunger.We all have a natural desire to look at food. Seeing crave-worthy food, physical or virtual (e.g., food porn) can make us want to eat, now!
  2. Nose Hunger.Our sense of smell is linked with taste. Smelling the cookies in the oven, or rotisserie chicken in the store, can trigger this hunger.
  3. Ear Hunger.The sounds of meal preparation can kick-start salivary glands – like the sound of bacon sizzling in the frying pan.
  4. Mouth Hunger. Food can taste good! And as one craving for flavor is satisfied, our mouth hunger can perk back up if we switch to new tastes.
  5. Cellular Hunger.When our bodies need particular nutrients, there may be physical manifestations like headaches, fatigue, or irritability. Understanding this takes sensitivity and inner wisdom.
  6. Mind Hunger. Our minds are busy (or stressed) thinking 60-80,000 thoughts per day! Learning to calm our minds helps quiet the mental chatter and allows us to tune into what our bodies need and want.
  7. Mindless Hunger. This is when we eat out of habit or are distracted and eat on autopilot: in front of a device or TV, at a movie, or maybe outside at a ballpark.
  8. Emotional Hunger.Often, eating is linked to emotions. We may associate foods with treats from our past or think of them as offering relief from unpleasantness. We may have unmet emotional needs and turn to food for comfort. We might even develop habit loops around the cycle of discomfort and eating.
  9. Stomach Hunger.When our tummies rumble, it could mean there’s an absence of food, but growls can occur at any time on an empty or full stomach. The rumbling is from muscular activity in the stomach and intestines and from gas moving around.

3:Drink Water

Even if our tummies are rumbling, we may be more thirsty than hungry. Drink a big glass of water and wait several minutes.

If you still feel physically hungry, you probably are. Time to eat!

If you are not physically hungry try getting to know whatever hunger you’ve identified a bit better.

Tap into your mindful curiosity and be an objective observer of what this hunger or craving feels like. Are there sensations in your body? How exactly do they feel? What emotions are piqued? What thoughts are in your head? Breathe fully a few times as you attentively investigate this hunger. It may be uncomfortable, but you’ll live! After not too long, the desire will lessen. Each time you repeat this you’ll get to know your hunger a bit more and it will loosen its hold on you. Name it to tame it!

You can also explore what may satisfy you during this hunger experience more deeply than food. Maybe it’s a short walk to shift your energy. Or a chat with a friend to dispel some emotion.

Now decide from a place of more freedom if you still want to eat.  If so, do it from a place of authentic enjoyment and relish each and every bite! Cheers!

(Originally published on Clean Plates