The Hunger Project – 2. How Do You Define Hunger?


Defining Hunger??
Defining Hunger??

Hunger has been defined as a severe craving for food. Yet, when I started to work on this little project of mine, I thought that I would go a bit deeper.

Hidden Hunger has been defined as the situation where you consume enough calories to survive but lack certain nutrients.

Starvation is an extreme deficiency in calorific intake, as well as vitamin and nutrient intake.

Malnutrition has been defined as a situation where you take in too many nutrients, the wrong type or the wrong proportion.

So far, most of the definitions confine themselves to the physical aspects of hunger, and often then go on to talk of the economic consequences. Many of the studies focus on poor countries, poor people, mother and child, and then generally stop.

When I started to make the mind map, I stopped where I did only because I realised that if I go deeper, then the map will get very complex.

In India, we talk – our old government talked – of food security. In this, they only spoke of calories, and not nutrition. A Food Security/ Nutrition Security Index was launched, and quickly forgotten. This was more holistic, and spoke of the Availability of Food, Quality, Digestibility and one more.

When you talk of digestibility, this is impacted by our habits, as well as our background. If we have not been used to getting food, we cannot digest a large quantity suddenly. Habits like alcoholism and cigarette smoking also impact the ability to digest. So does the quality, and the quality of water.

However, the issues of hunger can be approached from two angles – too much food, and two little food. To each, you add in the element of the mix of nutrients.

Go deeper, and think of what the cause could be. Is it the availability of too much food? Or lack of availability? Is it the availability of the wrong kind of food?

Add in the element of education. Advertising.

Add in the element of psychology? Do we eat because we have a psychological disorder? Do we stop eating, because we want the impossible size zero figure of some obscure film star?

Throw the changing knowledge / theory landscape of scientific nutritional knowledge into the mix, just to spice things up, and also mix in the whole world of fad diets.

You suddenly find that the issue of hunger suddenly becomes very complex indeed, and can be approached from many different angles.

“Where do I begin?”, sang the bard.

Maybe, I shall start from the perspective of those who are a size large.



  1. Hunger is not just related to all the things that can be proven scientifically, there is an aspect of satisfaction and likeability attached to different types of food that widely skew the eating habits of people…….

  2. I can’t even begin to address the issue. I know I have never known starvation. That’s about all I can say. It is complex, and I feel completely unequipped to give an opinion.

    1. Well, this is something that I shall explore! I only experienced something like starvation, or extreme hunger twice, for two days apiece. Once, as an experiment. The second time when I was holed up in a hotel room for two days without food. There were riots going on outside. I managed to escape on the third day.

      1. Ok, I am far out of even understanding that realm. I can only try to understand it intellectually…. :/

  3. Rajiv, interesting to think about the complexity involved. It’s not always as cut and dried as we might initially think. Interested to see your additional thoughts in future posts.

  4. Such a multidimensional issue you’ve decided to tackle, Rajiv. I’m certain you could continue posting through a month of Sundays and only scratch the surface.
    Most importantly, I’d say, is the necessity for dialogue that can spring from such a critical topic. There is much to think about certainly, and a great deal to solve.

  5. Interesting Rajiv – never thought much about the complexity behind hunger as in the UK the issue is about obesity and poor eating choices, although the use of food banks is a growing and hidden issue. Look forward to reading more of your thoughts on this.

    Being stuck in a hotel because of riots sounds like an interesting story!

  6. I really appreciate this post, R. I’ve given a great deal of thought to the psychology of eating and the aspects of our need for food. There is the element of social eating, too, the effects and how eating in community gives food its meaning . A whole book. And there’s America genetically modifying food. It’s common knowledge corn and soy are the top GMO crops here.

    Actually, you are bringing to mind thoughts from

    if you get the chance. People appreciate the How To Eat page. Hope you enjoy.


  7. Let me share something very Valuable I learnt from one of my Favourite books, ‘Remo, Unarmed and Dangerous.’ I forget the author’s name. That much to give credit to them.

    The point is, We err when We so easily say that We are Starving. Starvation is the situ where the Body is Not getting its Nutrients. Hunger is merely a feeling, sent out by the stomach saying that it is empty. Like Exhaustion, Hunger can be ignored much of the time. (Surgeons train themselves to ignore Exhaustion).

    The People in many places in Africa and even in India are Starving. Many of Us eat when We are not even Hungry!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.