The 8 Types of Hunger

Plate of food at restaurant. Mindful eating: The 8 types of hunger.

Filed Under: Mindful Eating

15 April 2015 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis

I have just finished reading a very worthwhile and instructive book by one of the world’s leading experts on Mindful Eating, Jan Chozen Bays – “Mindful Eating – A guide to rediscovering a healthy and joyful relationship with food”.

In the book she talks about the 7 hungers, she later added an 8th hunger. I am finding her very valuable teachings so helpful with my clients and in my practice. Let’s have a look at the 8 hungers…


Eye hunger is triggered by food that you see. It can be other people who are eating, food that you see on the table or counter, seeing adverts, recipes and pictures of food. Other examples are food displays in delis, markets, restaurants or supermarkets. Or the waiter comes past with a delicious-looking Crème Brûlée and you feel the need to have it only because you have seen it!


The smell of baking bread or cake. The smell of coffee… Or you could have just had a lovely meal and then you go to the movies and smell the popcorn!


The sound of packets opening can trigger ear hunger. Or you are at the movies and you hear the  sound of people eating popcorn. The sound of a can / bottle opening and listening to people discuss food and restaurants…


Mouth hunger is the mouth’s desire for a variety of pleasurable sensations. What the mouth wants is a “party in the mouth”! Mouth hunger is the most difficult to satisfy, because the mouth is satisfied by sensation, it desires variety in flavour and texture and it bores easily. It keeps chasing the taste, regardless of fullness in the stomach. Sometimes we want soft food, cold food, crunchy or chewy food.


This is natural, physical biological hunger. We experience sensations in the stomach depending on hunger levels. What sensations tell you that your stomach is painfully empty? Very empty? Empty? Satisfied? Pleasantly full? Overfull? Stuffed? How do we satisfy stomach hunger? By eating and tuning in (as we eat) to our levels of fullness and stopping at a comfortable point.


Mind hunger is based on thoughts: “I should eat more protein”, “I should drink 8 glasses of water a day”, “I should not eat bread”, “Cheese is bad for you – it has too much fat”, “Eggs are good for you they have lots of protein”, “You must have breakfast”, “You should have 6 small meals a day”, “Sugar, wheat and gluten are poison”…

Mind hunger changes – many years ago butter was considered bad, now margarine is bad. Fat was the enemy but now sugar and wheat are the enemy. Pay attention to the voices in your head about food – they normally come in the form of a “should or shouldn’t”…

Mind hunger is the most difficult to satisfy because the mind is always changing its mind. The mind contains the inner critic that judges what we eat or don’t eat. The ideal is to have a quiet mind (not at all easy) when we eat and not to pay attention to the critical words of the mind.


Cellular hunger is what the body needs and not what the mind needs. Often what we interpret as hunger is actually thirst. Sometimes our bodies just ask for veggies, rice, citrus – like when we are sick, we tend to want warm nourishing foods like chicken soup. When you are hungry, pause and ask your body what it wants. Liquid or solid, protein, starch, fruit, salt, citrus or something leafy? Essential elements satisfy cellular hunger – water, salt, protein, fat, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates and trace minerals such as iron or zinc.


Also known as emotional hunger. We eat when we feel sad and lonely, in order to comfort ourselves. We treat food as a reward. Comfort foods are mostly linked to warm feelings of connection. What foods do you eat when you are sad or lonely? Are they different to foods that you eat when you are angry or bored? I know for me, when I am frustrated or annoyed I tend to seek crunchy or chewy foods and when I am sad I prefer soft and smooth foods.

No food can truly satisfy heart hunger. Heart hunger is satisfied by connection with ourselves firstly and then with others.

Let’s see how this plays out in real life…

Situation: Office Birthday Party – Cupcakes at work

Eyes: They look delicious and so pretty, I must have one!

Nose: They smell yummy – you can smell the chocolate and the vanilla!

Mouth: The soft spongy texture is so nice in my mouth and the creamy icing is too delicious…(party in the mouth)

Mind: Hmm… that’s just carbs and sugar but you only had fruit for breakfast – so a few carbs are okay and the cupcakes may be gone later – so best I get one now while I can.

Stomach: After all the fruit this morning and the 2 coffees you just had, I’m feeling a bit queasy and I’m not sure I can eat cupcakes now.

Cells: Fat and sugar? No, not really in the mood… Some water would be nice.

Heart: I am dreading this next meeting, I have to give a debrief on this project and I’m feeling a bit nervous –  so this will feel so good right now.

So next time you want to eat ask yourself… Who is hungry in there? What kind of hunger am I experiencing right now?

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