The Hunger Tree and How It Can Help You!

All hunger is not the same. As you read through the Women’s Health Body Clock Diet, you’ll notice yourself starting to be able to discern different types of hunger. Once you have figured out whether the hunger is behavioral, physical or emotional, it is time to deal with that hunger. That’s where the Hunger Tree comes in. The Hunger Tree can be found on page 97 of the Women’s Health Body Clock Diet, but I am reproducing it right here for your reference.


First, you’ll notice mindfulness at the top. Mindfulness, the act of being aware, is your first step to begin figuring out whether your eating falls under the emotional, behavioral or physical categories.

Emotional Hunger

If you determine your hunger is emotionally-based, you can

1) reach for a comfort card, which you will have already filled out with coping skills/activities you can rely on

2) Use the Cortisol Crushers (aka Diffusion Techniques) found on page 95 (Chapter 8) of the Women’s Health Body Clock Diet to decrease your stress. Decreasing stress and thus cortisol through activities like yoga and stress tolerance are active tools to bring your stress hormone down on demand.

I personally learned these from my amazing colleague Susan Schrott, DCSW, LCSW, CEDS, CYT, and Kripalu-trained yoga instructor. Diffusion Techniques are tools from a greater concept known as ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy).

The Five Cortisol Crushers (Diffusion Techniques) are:

1) Figure out and write down your main values, such as living an honest life or being of service.

2) Don’t put judgment on thoughts. Recognize thoughts as merely information. If a thought does not help with your values, change your focus to something that will.

3) Put bad thoughts, feelings or memories in imaginary luggage that you envision being taken away on a conveyor belt. Now, all you are left with are values.

4) Remember, life is like TiVo and can always be put on pause when things get too stressful. Take a deep breath and press play again only when you’re ready.

5) Thank yourself for your thoughts, even if they are negative ones. Again, forget judgment.

Behavioral Hunger

If you determine your hunger is behavioral, you can use the Boot Behavioral Eating method. Boot Behavioral Eating involves sitting while eating; eating without distractions; embracing boredom while eating; writing down thoughts, feelings and actions before the first bite; getting in tune with your physical feelings of hunger and using a comfort card, or just doing something else to break the behavioral eating pattern cycle.

Physical Hunger

If you determine the hunger is in fact physical, identify how hungry you are with the help of a hunger fullness scale. Choose a food to eat. Do a body scan (this is a detailed process involving breathing and connecting with your body’s energy; my favorite body scan is found in WHBCD’s chapter called How To Eat an Oreo). And finally, use the four senses (sight, sound, touch and smell) before you take the first bite, and the fifth sense, taste, when you finally enjoy that first bite. The goal is to connect — really connect — with the food you are eating and hopefully not take it for granted.

The Hunger Tree is a great tool to get a handle on various eating issues! The detailed instructions on using this diagram can be found in my book and only in my book the Women’s Health Body Clock Diet, since I created it for my clients and readers. I encourage you to get your very own personal copy and get a great start on healthy eating!

Shop books by Laura to tune in to the power of positive nutrition.