Do you ever feel full, but still want to eat something more? It’s almost as if your mouth—not your mind—were experiencing a craving and could use some excitement: a rush of sweetness, a crunch, a tang. This is because not all hunger is true hunger. In this case, you’re experiencing mouth hunger.
What is mouth hunger?
Mouth hunger is unrelated to your body’s physical need for fuel. So, you may experience mouth hunger even if you just ate, and even if you feel physically full.
Typically, our mouths are satisfied by qualities like texture, flavor, and temperature. When you’re mouth-hungry, you’ll tend toward foods that are fun rather than filling. When you’re mouth-hungry, your cravings are typically hyperspecific. (Think: a chewy chocolate chip cookie or salty peanut butter pretzel bites at 2:00 pm while you’re still digesting lunch.)
Here are some telltale signs that you’re mouth-hungry:
- You would like to eat something, but you’re feeling picky about what you want to eat
- You’re craving something hyperspecific
- You really want to taste something
- You find yourself grazing on a bit of this, a bit of that, and maybe a bit of something else
One instance when you may experience mouth hunger is when you weren’t fully in touch with your last meal. (Think: mindless eating.) Why? When you eat mindlessly, your body misses out on the subtleties of your food’s taste, smell, mouth-feel, and even plating, which are important in feeling satisfied. So even if your stomach has taken in enough food, your mouth may still feel crave something more. Alternatively, you might feel mouth-hungry when you’re not honoring your body’s cravings or depriving yourself of foods you enjoy.
The difference between mouth hunger and stomach hunger
Stomach hunger is also known as “real” or “true” hunger.
Here are some signs that you’re stomach-hungry:
- You’re experiencing a feeling of emptiness in your stomach
- You (or innocent bystanders) can hear your stomach growling or rumbling
- You feel irritable (or “hangry”)
- You’re finding it difficult to concentrate
- You’re nauseated
- You feel dizzy and/or lightheaded
In other words, when you’re experiencing stomach hunger, your body is in need of energy.
The importance of honoring mouth hunger, too
Just because stomach hunger is true hunger, that doesn’t make mouth hunger any less real or something you should ignore.
We recommend honoring your mouth and stomach hungers. Why? When you don’t give your mouth what it wants, you might keep on eating until you satisfy it. Picture this: You’re craving chocolate but you decide to opt for some carrots, a healthier snack. Once you finish the carrots, you’re still not satisfied. So, you grab a handful of berries. Next, you’ve moved on to some yogurt, and ultimately, you find yourself eating the chocolate you originally wanted. Had you just enjoyed a few squares of chocolate when you craved it, chances are you would have eaten much less overall.
The best thing you can do to practice satisfying your mouth and stomach hungers is to pause before your meal and ask yourself:
- “What would make me feel full right now?” to feed your stomach hunger
- “What would make me to satisfied right now?” to feed your mouth hunger
Once you make your choice, take your time to savor your meal to let your stomach and mouth feel satisfied.
This concept is adapted from our Noom Weight curriculum. Sign up today to learn about over 10 types of hunger we experience.