Are you a hungry ghost? “Preta” is the Sanskrit name for a type of supernatural being described in Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism as undergoing suffering greater than that of humans, particularly an extreme level of hunger and thirst.
We call people who never have enough “hungry ghosts”. Sounds familiar? Many of us eat not because we’re hungry, but because we have an emotional relationship with food.
Eric Edmeades, nutritional anthropologist and food psychologist defines 6 types of human hunger out of which only one should actually drive you to eat.
The 6 types of human hunger
- Thirst. Our ancestors couldn’t carry water around since there were no pottery holders back then. They took water out of the foods they ate like fruits, vegetables, etc. Now, when we’re dehydrated, our brain sends a signal “go eat something, we’re dehydrated”. So, when we’re thirsty, we eat and instead of eating something rich in water, we eat crap, like potato chips that make us even more hungry.
- Hunger for variety. We naturally crave food variety. So, when you start adopting a healthy lifestyle, you need to take this into consideration, otherwise your need for variety will kick in and you’ll eventually go for that Snickers bar want it or not.
- Empty stomach hunger. Having an empty stomach is healthy since that allows the digestive system to have a rest. 1. Stop and examine the feeling in the morning. It’s not hunger, it’s just a physical sensation. 2. If the feeling of an empty stomach gets too strong, have a glass of water.
- Low blood sugar. Metabolism has two sources of fuel: carbohydrates (sugars) and fats. You’re in some serious trouble right now when you get into low blood sugar hunger. The temptation will be to go after really high glycemic index foods that simply flood your blood with sugar. We need to move our metabolism to a more fat-burning metabolism (eat better quality carbs) and so we eliminate low blood sugar as a weakness. Low blood sugar makes people feel pessimistic and negative and that’s when you’re more prone to give in to cravings.
- Emotional hunger. We are all guilty of this, ain’t we? Emotional eating is when you’re eating food for some reason other than your physical sustenance. When people feel lonely, they have chocolate since that makes them feel less lonely for a moment; it creates a sense of connection. Eric Edmeades suggests this exercise: 1. Write on a piece of paper the emotion you’re feeling. 2. The emotion you’d rather be feeling. 3. Note down three to six non-food ways to move from your current emotion to the desired one. Food is expedient because it gives us a result in a moment but so does a phone call or sending somebody a really loving text. You’d be amazed how much connection you can create with actual connection rather than with food.
- Nutritional hunger, the true hunger, kick in when your body is saying “I am empty of nutrients. There are vitamins, minerals, fats and amino acids that I need. Please go get them for me”. When we feel nutritionally hungry that’s a desperate form of hunger because that’s a literal form of starvation then we simply go and eat something non-functional and then we still don’t have the nutrients and so we still want to eat. What we need to do is go for more quality, nourishing foods that actually fill us up and provide all the nutrients we need.
We’d love to hear from you, what type of hunger are you most familiar with? Want to know more, join Eric’s quest on Mindvalley.