How to recognize if you’re really hungry?

Being hungry doesn't always mean the same thing

How to recognize if you’re really hungry?
Written by Our: Morning Runner
Medical Fact Checked by: Dr. Bryan Havoc
Last updated:

Run a test and take a look around... For sure you’ll find people who are just eating something or describing what they ate or would like to eat. Are you impulsively getting hungry? Before you reach for something to eat, consider if what you actually feel is really hunger.

At first think when do you most often reach for food. Does it happen when your body informs you about hunger? Or when you have some spare time, when you’re among friends and you talk while sneaking all of the time? Or maybe does it happen when others are eating? Or when you’re bored, when you feel anxiety, sadness or anger?

Perls distinguished five stages in self-regulation cycle: sensation - awareness - mobilization of energy - contact - withdrawal.

Fritz Perls, developer of Gestalt therapy, has identified psychological cycle which occurs in every human being. The cycle of organismic self-regulation is related to the satisfaction of needs. If we interpret the need properly and satisfy it, we should feel calm. When a goal is reached, it’s no longer a goal. Our interests are going into another direction, not connected with the previous need.

Let’s see how self-regulation may look like when we feel hungry:

Sensation - you’re starting to feel hunger pangs, you’re not reacting to them, sensations are getting stronger, you might feel anxiety or nausea. The sensation is clear, hard to ignore. It’s distracting your attention from other activities.

Awareness - the sensation is catched by awareness, you understand what’s happening with you, what does your body need, you know that information received from your body is hunger and you know what can you do to satisfy it.

Mobilization - you start to mobilize yourself, to visualize what are you going to eat, how you’re going to prepare the meal, your body is ready for this, you might feel muscles tension.

Contact - you start to eat, taste, feed yourself, you can feel what you’re eating, you’re aware of all conducted activities.

Withdrawal - you realize the feeling of satiety. You feel satisfaction, fulfillment, relaxation. Your attention on eating reduces or disappears completely. If somebody asked you if you wanna eat something, you will realize you’re no longer interested in that. When you begin withdrawal stage and satisfy the need, your thoughts are going into other directions, for example again to the work you’ve ceased.

Observe yourself. It’s a very simple but really effective test. If after finishing your meal you won’t feel satisfaction and you’re still focused on food, then most probably by eating you just wanted to satisfy other need than hunger.

*This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.