At your favorite lunch spot, they bake bread on the premises, and the delicious aroma of warm loaves has you salivating before you have even placed your order. You weren’t feeling especially hungry in the car and were thinking of eating a salad, but gosh, now that you’re here, wouldn’t you just love a chunk of that cinnamon-raisin bread with butter?

How do you decide when you’re really hungry and what will satisfy your urge to eat? At the 2015 Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth Conference, in San Diego this February, facilitators Jan Chozen Bays, MD, and Char Wilkins, LCSW, led a workshop on mindful eating.

Bays and Wilkins described “eight hungers”— eye hunger, nose hunger, ear hunger, mouth hunger, stomach hunger, body or cellular hunger, mind hunger and heart hunger. When we reach for food, which hunger are we trying to appease?

“Only food and drink will satisfy stomach and cellular hunger,” Bays writes in her book Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship to Food (Shambhala 2009); “however, there are many alternatives to food for satisfying the other . . . types of hunger.” Learning to distinguish the different types can help us refrain from emotional or unnecessary eating.

For example, back at your lunch spot an awareness of nose hunger lets you recognize the link between the aroma of warm bread and your sudden desire for a large slice of it.Your mouth would enjoy that bread, too! But instead of diving in, you satisfy nose hunger by enjoying the wonderful smell of fresh baking.You note that ear hunger isn’t registering; there are no enticing sounds from the kitchen.You also notice that a salad was your mind’s idea (it’s what you “should” eat), but is that what your body needs right now? And what about your eyes and heart? They’re drifting toward the succulent raspberry torte, looking beautiful in the display case and reminding you of tarts your mother made; you appreciate the rich red with your eyes and nourish your heart by feeling thankful for your mother’s love. Maybe you’ll bake her recipe sometime soon.

So what will you have? There is some anxiety in your stomach from having to choose, but stomach hunger is still moderate. You listen to your cellular body, and it knows: A bowl of warm soup with a little protein will truly answer your current need.

Kate Watson

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