Mindful eating teaches you how to eat using all your senses and teaches about different hungers without judgement.
Have you ever stopped long enough to think about why you eat? Most will say because they are hungry or know they need food in order to survive. These statements are true but have you ever asked yourself to describe why you are hungry? This becomes difficult because there are several types of hunger or experiences that occur as sensations, thoughts, and even emotions within our bodies, minds and hearts.
In Dr. Jan Chozen’s book, Mindful Eating, she states that “We take delight in our food. It calls to us through our senses, our eyes, our sensitive nose, our watering mouth our longing heart.” Mindful eating is defined as deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening inside yourself- in your body, mind and heart -and outside yourself, in your environment. Mindfulness is awareness without judgement or criticism. Dr. Chozen challenges us to insert a tiny moment of reflection before we bite into our food. She states that in order to reflect or be mindful of what we are eating, we first have to understand the eight different types of hunger that can pull us to want to eat.
Eye Hunger: The eyes send signals to the mind. People generally decide how much of a given food they will eat based upon feedback from the eyes. The eyes can override information from the mouth, stomach, and body. Sometimes you’ll discover that when you feel hungry, it’s not your body wanting food but your eyes are hungry for beauty.
Nose Hunger: What we call the” taste” or “flavor” of food is almost entirely the smell of food. Our tongues are actually only able to taste five flavors – sweet, salty, sour, bitter and amino acids (a protein-like taste) Humans, on the other hand, can smell ten thousand different smells. Nose hunger is satisfied by fragrance. Merchants are very aware of nose hunger and use it to entice you often.
Mouth Hunger: the mouth’s desire for pleasurable sensations. What your mouth experiences as pleasant depends upon factors such as genetics, food habits in your family or origin, cultural traditions, and conditioning, which means associations of certain foods with other pleasant or unpleasant experiences.
Stomach Hunger: Most think that the stomach tells us when we must feed, which is not true. We actually tell the stomach when we are hungry through our eating habits. Our body hunger is what is important for us to listen to. What this means is to listen for the signs of hunger from our whole body, not just from our stomachs that demands food at the same time each day.
Cellular and/or Thirst Hunger: Listening to our bodies’ cellular needs is the primary skill of mindfulness eating. Through mindfulness we can become more sensitive to cellular needs and learn to separate what the body actually needs from what our mind is demanding. Ask, what you are hungry for?: liquid or solids, root or leafy, citrus or not, salt, starch, protein etc.
Mind Hunger: Is based upon thoughts and is influenced by what we take in with our eyes and ears, the words we read and hear. When we eat based upon the thoughts in the mind, our eating is usually based in worry.
Heart Hunger: Is the food eaten with people you love or loved. Hunger for these foods arose from the desire to be loved and cared for. Many people are aware that they eat in an attempt to fill a hole, not in the stomach, but in the heart.
Michigan State University Extension believes that understanding the eight types of hunger is important in your quest to become a “mindful eater.” Before you take a bite, ask yourself “who in there is hungry?” Practice listening to your whole body and not the three most problematic, mouth, heart and mind. Take the time to slow down and listen to all your senses and seven hungers without judgement!