In our modern culture, we say things like, “I could eat,” or “I can always eat.”
We eat when we’re bored. We go to the fridge when work stalls. We eat when stressed. We have food cravings for crunchy, chewy, salty or sweet things.
On the other hand, some people skip meals. They eat only one meal a day, barely eat anything at all or can fast naturally overnight and well into the next day.
The human appetite is fascinating. I’ve wanted to learn more recently, so I purchased the book “AC: The Power of Appetite Correction” by Dr. Bert Herring to learn about the human drive to eat. In his book, Herring identifies five different types of hunger: somatic, limbic, clock, appetite and mouth.
To dive deeper, somatic hunger is present when you feel your stomach growling and sense physical hunger. Limbic hunger occurs when under stress or when food scarcity is present. Clock hunger is felt as somatic hunger in the body and is part of our biological rhythms, much like our drive to sleep in the evening. This hunger comes from eating on a schedule and explains why we usually eat around similar times each day. Appetite hunger is our internal appestat, or drive to eat. This hunger is present when you know you don’t need to eat, but it’s hard to stop. Mouth hunger is felt as an urge to chew, munch or please the mouth’s desires for things like chewy or crunchy textures.
As you can see, hunger can become more complex than we may initially realize. The way I like to break down hunger and fullness to my nutrition clients is simple and gamified. It’s called “The Hunger Game” — it sounds brutal, but I swear it’s not.
The Hunger Game is a game you play with yourself throughout the day, especially while eating. Hunger and fullness exist on a sale together from zero to 10. Note the scale below:
Ideally, we start eating between seven and eight. Between these numbers, all food will taste good and digest well, and we are setting ourselves up to most likely to eat an appropriate amount.
On the other hand, ideally, we stop eating at a two or 80% fullness. When we stop here, we feel energized by food and can also digest it well. Because digestion takes time and food travels slowly from the plate to the stomach, we must eat slowly so our body can feel the sensation of a two in real-time with no other food in the digestive pipeline to push us into “stuffed.”
Playing The Hunger Game is both a habit and practice. Eventually, it will become natural, but at first, more attention is necessary (much like driving a car at 16).
To fine-tune your appetite, prioritize foods that grow from the earth and not from a package or factory. Whole foods are the natural human diet and are easier for our bodies to recognize and digest.
I hope this gives you some insight into the complex world of appetite and offers a simple hunger game solution that you can practice and play. The more you slow down, eat whole natural foods, eat when you’re hungry (somatic hunger) and stop when you are full (at a two), the more you will fine-tune your body’s appestat.
About the Author
Krista Large is a nutritionist, habit coach and online fitness trainer. Her passion in life is teaching others to dream big and live large, which starts with health. Large is an Ole Miss Rebel and runs her own brand and business based here in Austin. You can learn more about her at livinglargewellness.com.