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Head Hunger vs. True Hunger

Head hunger vs. true hunger. It is a constant battle most of us face on a daily basis. Head hunger is that urge to eat when the physical hunger isn’t there.

Maybe your mind wanders as you head home, passing what feels like every food joint in town. The sights of the fast food neon lights, the smells of the foods as your pass; you must be hungry or you wouldn’t be so tempted, right? Is it true physical hunger, or head hunger?

What if you didn’t have those food options along with your commute? Would you still feel “hungry”? When was the last time you had something to eat? Would anything satisfy that “hunger”, or are you craving that specific fast food item?

Asking ourselves these questions could be all it takes to be just a little more mindful of what our body needs when it needs it… and when it doesn’t.

One tip to decipher head hunger from true hunger is to pay attention to what your brain is saying. Head hunger usually starts with a specific food craving, for example: “I’m really in the mood for pizza.” What would happen if you munched on nature’s fast food instead? True physical hunger can be satisfied with any food really, and your body will be most thankful if that food is high in nutrients like fruits, vegetables, lean protein, or whole grains—items that are rarely found at the quick convenient food stops along every corner.

Next time you reach for a snack try asking yourself some questions:

  • Why am I hungry? What cues triggered this hunger? Am I stressed, bored, tired?
  • When is the last time I ate? Less than 2 hours? Try distracting yourself. More than 2 hours? Time for a low-calorie snack with some protein! More than four hours? Maybe time for a meal. Skipping meals or going a long time without some nutrition can lead to overeating later in the day.
  • Hunger still there? Try munching on some fruits and vegetables. If those don’t sound appealing to you, it might be a case of head hunger.

The constant reminder of food throughout the day makes answering these questions a struggle. Taking a few minutes to really listen to your body is the first step of learning to become a mindful eater. For more information on mindful eating, visit the Am I Hungry? website.

CHI Health Food and Nutrition Services Team
CHI Health Food and Nutrition Services Team

These blogs are written by members of the CHI Health Nutrition Services team.

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