I’m Hungry! 4 Different Types of Hunger.

By Amy Beney MS RD CDCES, Updated December 4, 2023

What are hunger cues?

Hunger cues are something we are born with. When we are newborns, we are naturally born with the ability to identify when we are hungry. For many reasons, along the way, we lose this ability to recognize our hunger cues truly.

Eating well is what we eat and how and why we eat. Identifying hunger cues, the types of hunger, and how to rate your hunger can help you identify eating patterns. Identifying full cues is equally as essential as identifying hunger cues. Some diseases, such as diabetes, can alter our hunger and full cues. Identifying the types of hunger and identifying hunger and fullness is another aspect of honoring our bodies.

Young women eating healthy.

4 Types of Hunger

  1. Practical Hunger– eating in the absence of hunger cues. An example is if you are unable to eat for a certain period of time and to eat “top off” your hunger.
  2. Physical Hunger – When you have physical signs of hunger, you have not eaten in a certain amount of time and have hunger cues.
  3. Taste Hunger– When you have food cravings or smell a specific type of food that makes you hungry
  4. Emotional Hunger– When you eat to satisfy an emotional issue or concern.

Rate your hunger.

Using a hunger scale can help identify types of hunger. This hunger scale chart looks at the physical aspects of being hungry but can also tap into the emotional component of eating. Intuitive eating is an approach to eating that focuses on the body’s response to hunger and full cues. This chart can be used as an intuitive eating hunger scale. It is beginning to trust and listen to your body’s needs and understand your hunger better.

When you start to feel like you want something to eat, rate your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being extremely hungry and 10 being so full you feel sick. A rating between 4 to 6 means you’re comfortable and should start thinking about your next meal or snack so that hunger does not become a 2 or 3.

Somebody can use this scale in many ways. It can be used to understand intuitive eating hunger cues, full cues and identify and discuss the different types of hunger and hunger levels. 

An example of using this chart is to think about how different levels of hunger affect food choices. Think of food choices you made when you were a 1 or 2 or hungry. Did you choose a healthy salad or more filling that is easy to grab? Was it chips? Fast food? Cookies? 

When you were a 6 or 7, when you were comfortably full, did you choose something small portion of a treat or a healthier option?

We make different choices depending on how hungry we are. It is not that we are not motivated or are a failure because of our food decisions when we are hungry