In August 2017, I ran across an infographic by Eric Edmeades on different ways that hunger may present itself. Edmeades listed and described 6 hungers.
Because I strive to make nutrition easy for my clients, I wrote a response article, critiquing Edmeades’s notion of 6 hungers and addressing each one.
My article went relatively unnoticed until just recently – 3/30/18, in fact – when Mr. Edmeades posted a reply to me online.
It felt as if the reply had been written with a bit of anger, and I responded that I had not attempted to tear down his work, but to address some points of confusion and perhaps generate a little controversy.
In his reply to my 2017 article, Mr. Edmeades had focused on a strong point of his, regarding one type of hunger. He wrote, “Thirst absolutely shows up as hunger.” He referred to the bushman culture of southern Africa and cited several times that he had gone hunting with them. They took no water on the trip of 27 miles one day and 17 miles the next, but instead stopped to eat. Of course, the foods they ate were high in water content, which took care of their thirst.
And I Agree with That!
Interestingly, this was a point that my article had never contradicted. I had written, “It makes sense that we look to food when we’re thirsty. Back in the days when people foraged for food – and the foods they ate were high in water content – eating was a way to stay hydrated.” No argument there.
I also wrote, “But the two states are different. Distinguishing thirst from hunger is a learnable skill.” I have spent considerable time helping clients tune in to their body signals for thirst and hunger, teaching them to distinguish between the two, and getting them to drink more water, rather than always reaching for food.
To keep things simple for my clients, I reserve the term “hunger” for food hunger, rather than using it to refer to thirst or any other urge to eat. (As a side note, contemporary US residents don’t always consume high water-content foods, so interpreting thirst as hunger won’t automatically lead to hydration. But I digress.)
Happily, Mr. Edmeades and I have communicated about these topics through a couple of written posts, and it feels as if we’ve moved to a friendlier and more collaborative base.
What’s Still Confusing About Hunger?
The ‘genuine hunger’ point does still leave some room (and need) for clarification, within the context of the 6 Hungers infographic. When I’m confused, I’m concerned that my clients – who have typically studied nutrition less extensively than I have – will also be confused.
My confusion centers on Hunger #1, Nutritional Hunger. Edmeades calls this the “only genuine hunger.”
Apparently, this genuine hunger occurs when the body needs specific nutrients. That does in fact seem like a genuinely valid reason to eat.
Yet in the infographic, Edmeades never describes how to identify this hunger. How can I help my clients – who may be struggling to identify the hunger sensation – distinguish it from thirst, appetite, an emotional urge to eat, or a craving when they’re all called “hunger”?
With the 6 Hungers approach, they will now have to distinguish Nutritional Hunger from empty stomach hunger and low-glucose hunger, as well.
Further, Edmeades cautions that Nutritional Hunger is not always communicated honestly. He doesn’t explain, however, how the honest and dishonest sensations of nutritional hunger differ from each other. I fear this will make things still more confusing for my clients and would definitely like to learn how to communicate this to clients clearly and precisely.
My primary coaching and consulting goal is to help clients respond to food and eating naturally and logically, so they can make informed decisions about when to eat.
I would love to hear from Eric Edmeades about specific ways I can help my clients do that, particularly the ones who have been away from a natural response to food for many years.
Can the 6 Hungers concept help my clients, rather than confuse them?
Once I learn that it can, I’ll be able to embrace the 6 Hungers fully. In the meantime, I do feel a need to prevent client confusion by using the word “hunger” to describe the physical sensation of hunger only, rather than anything else that may drive them to eat.
Mr. Edmeades, any suggestions or clarifications?