Am i really hungry? Physical signs of hunger to look out for

Are you able to really feel physical signs of hunger and know when to eat in response? Surprisingly, many people are not and ask themselves, “Am I really hungry?”

But don’t worry if you’re one of those people – we’ve got you covered.

Navigating with physical signs of hunger can be a tricky game. We’re busy people with a lot going on and often we don’t feel like we have the time to review with hunger or acknowledge what hunger really feels like. And sometimes we just don’t know what it feels like!

We talk a lot about mindfulness and mindful eating here at Nutrition Stripped, and it’s going to play a role again here, too. If we don’t eat mindfully (and if you will, eat senselessly) it is quite difficult to know whether or not hunger actually guides our food choices.

To help you with this, we will teach you to be more mindful and recognize the physical signs of hunger.

But before we get there, let’s first examine why it is so important to feed according to your hunger.

Why is it important to recognize physical signs of hunger?

Throughout the day, our body is in constant communication with us to let us know when we need energy and when we don’t need energy. Our hunger and satiety signals are responsible for this!

The hormones that are responsible for triggering these hunger and satiety signals are ghrelin (hunger hormone) and leptin (satiety / satiety hormone).

When we feel physical signs of hunger, the body tells us that it needs energy. But, unfortunately, what happens to many people over time is that they ignore these physical signs or forget how they are feeling. Dates, lack of time, stress, and dieting are just a few of the many lifestyle factors that can cause this.

When we ignore or fail to notice physical signs of hunger, a chain of events begins.

We can hit points of extreme hunger and lose control of eating, feel lethargic, bloated, and overly full when we eat, constantly overeating or undereating, the list goes on and on.

To prevent this from happening, let’s really get acquainted with the physical signs of hunger.

Common physical signs of hunger

By checking your hunger and satiety signals, you can tell when you are really hungry and in need of energy.

Below are some of the most common physical signs of hunger.

Fatigue and lack of energy

Have you ever felt like you just weren’t there anymore? Tired even though you slept well? Lethargic even though you haven’t done anything particularly strenuous?

This is one of the signs of physical hunger.

We keep referring to the fact that the body needs energy. Think of energy = food. When we don’t get enough food (and therefore energy), the body can feel pretty lousy.

Everyday tasks are a little more difficult and we just don’t seem to get away. The only way to get away with it is to have a nutritious meal!

The next time you feel tired and lacking energy, be sure to check to see if it is a physical sign of hunger.

Stomach growling

It’s easy, isn’t it?

When your stomach growls or gurgles and you feel this sharp pain, your body is trying to tell you that it needs food.

I promise you, no matter how many diets, detoxes, or cleanses tell you to ignore this advice for x hours, it is simply not beneficial and is not true.

When we feel this pain, the stomach muscle contracts when it is empty. The next time your stomach growls, listen to it and respond with a nutritious Foundational Five meal!

Headache & shaky hands

When we are hungry and have not eaten for a long time, the body’s blood sugar levels can drop. When blood sugar levels are low, your body signals your brain that it needs more energy or food.

In this case, blood vessels may narrow and blood pressure increased. The final result? Headache.

In addition, when blood sugar is low, we very often feel shaky and nervous.

If you have frequent headaches with trembling hands, your body may be trying to tell you that it needs food. This may be one of your physical signs of hunger.

Brain fog and inability to concentrate

These two are also related to low blood sugar. If the body is not getting the energy it needs from food, the brain is also not getting the energy it needs to function properly.

This can make things, well, foggy! You may find that your thoughts are being processed a little slower than usual, or you may just not be able to concentrate on common tasks as well as you normally can.

By working at below average levels, your body is trying to tell you that it needs more nutrients to get your blood sugar back up.


Everyone has experienced “hang-ups” before. When you’re snappy, irritable, frustrated, and sometimes downright difficult for no apparent reason. Is there something that really bothers you? Is something wrong? No, it’s just hungry.

Your body is low on energy and nutrients, so your blood sugar is low again. When blood sugar is low it is much easier for us to react emotionally for no reason.

If you find this to be common when you have been without food for a long time, one of the physical signs of hunger may be “hang-ups” or irritability.

Signs that can be confused with hunger, but are “head hunger”

But what happens when we think we have a physical sign of hunger when in reality it is something else? We call this “head hunger”.

Head hunger is when a certain situation, emotion or feeling leads to reaching for food.

Below are some of the most common signs of what we call head hunger.

Sudden need

Always think randomly, “Oh my god, I would kill for … [insert craved food item here]“, All out of the blue?

That is a desire! Before we dive into this, there are certain anatomical scenarios that can cause cravings, and these can actually be related to physical hunger. So, if you’re curious to find out more and haven’t already, read here to learn more about what your cravings may be trying to tell you.

But mostly, it’s the taste and eating experience that we crave, not the physical nourishment from food. If we just want to eat, if you will, it is a sign of head hunger.

Physical or mental exhaustion

Have you ever been so physically or mentally exhausted that you just wanted to eat something to feel better? Yes, head hunger.

Now I’m going to say this one is a little tricky. It is entirely possible to be physically hungry from exhaustion. But often when we are mentally or physically exhausted and showing no physical signs of hunger, the food can still sound good.

When we mindlessly reach for food because of an emotion or feeling, we are not actually listening to the body’s hunger signals.

Unaddressed stress

This is very similar to our previous example! We can do the same thing when we’re stressed out as when we’re feeling exhausted.

Stress is uncomfortable and not fun. Eating delicious food, on the other hand, is convenient and very pleasant. It can be very easy to develop the habit of reaching for food in stressful situations.

We call this stress eating!

If stress is left untreated, it festers and we look for quick and easy ways to reduce it. Food is one of those means. Hunger as a result of stress is more of a head hunger than physical hunger.

Heightened emotions

After all, we have emotions. Have you ever felt so sad, angry, depressed, or frustrated that all you had to do was grab a cookie?

After the last two examples, I think it’s easy to see that this is an example of head hunger. Just as with stress, when emotions are not addressed we can seek relief from them through food.

Learn to adjust to physical signs of hunger

The goal here is to really get in tune with your individual hunger and even feeling of satiety. Familiarize yourself with the physical signs of hunger that you experience on a regular basis. Once you do, you can eat mindfully with ease.

As part of the Mindful Nutrition Method ™, our members provide tools and resources to develop this ability to adjust to their body’s hunger signals so that their unique properties can help them build confidence about when to eat, what to eat, and how much they are supposed to eat needs at this moment.

It is such an empowering ability to have!

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