Head Hunger versus Stomach Hunger

Ask “Hands up if you ever eat when you are not hungry?”

Whether it’s a meal, or eating at any other time of day or night, eating when you are not physically hungry can be a big factor in the trouble people have in controlling their weight.

It is ok to eat when you are not hungry – some of the time.  However if this goes too far it is easy to over eat and gain weight – or stay overweight.

The desire to eat when not hungry is driven by triggers – thoughts, feelings and situations.

How much head hunger do you think you do?

It may be useful to make a record of when you do this.  You can learn more about whether you have head hunger or stomach hunger by recording your level of hunger on a scale of 0 to 5.

0 = Stuffed

1 = Not at all Hungry

2 = Comfortable

3 = A bit Hungry

4 = Hungry

5 = Very Hungry


Then when you have eaten think about and write down how ‘satisfied’ you feel

  • Is your stomach hunger satisfied?
  • Do you feel happy with your food choice?
  • Did it hit the right spot?

Identifying whether you are eating due to head hunger versus stomach hunger, will help you take more conscious control over what you eat.

Use this method this next week.  This will be an extremely useful step to help you with your weight management.  Next week we will look at triggers for head hunger eating.  Bring yours with you.








Factors that can trigger head hunger –  tick which ones you do.




  • Watching others eat/smelling food
  • Walking past a cake/sweet shop
  • Food advertisements – especially ones on TV
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Buffet meals
  • Eating on the run, so you eat what you can get, but don’t savour it or may not even enjoy it
  • Having time on your hands
  • Skipping a meal so you get so hungry you end up overeating
  • Confusing hunger with thirst
  • Eating to please someone else, e.g. when visting family/friends
  • Bad premenstrual symptoms





  • Feeling lonely or bored
  • After an argument
  • Feeling stressed, anxious or tired
  • Feeling fed up with how you think you look
  • Feeling frustrated with the time it can take to truly change habits and lose weight
  • Feeling low about a smaller than expected weight loss
  • Feeling guilty or bad about food you’ve just eaten
  • Want food to cheer you up
  • Programmed to eat up everything on your plate
  • Feeling that you have already blown it so you may as well keep on eating



Eating when you aren’t hungry doesn’t just happen it is the result of a chain of events – events that may have a number of triggers.  Next time you have the urge to eat, first stop and think:


Ask yourself when did you last eat?

If you ate recently, (within ¾ hrs), or don’t feel ‘stomach hunger’, ask yourself what is prompting you to eat.  – Ask ‘why do I want to eat?”, ‘What am I seeing or feeling?”  ‘Why am I feeling this way?”


If you aren’t sure, ask yourself “Whatever I am worrying about, or is troubling me, will eating actually change it?  Is there something else I could do instead?”


If you are still not sure, think about the consequences of your action.  Think about how you will feel when you have finished eating.  Usually – Guilty, fed up of