Does it ever feel like you’re hungry all the time and just can’t stop eating or thinking about food?
Chances are you are experiencing Emotional Hunger. The main difference between Emotional Hunger and Physical Hunger is where you feel the hunger. If you are physically hungry, you feel it in your body. Your stomach growls or you have stomach pangs. If you’ve gone too long without food you may have a headache and your blood sugar may drop.
Emotional hunger, however, is felt in the head. It obscures our thinking and makes us feel irrational. In fact, food is often the only thing you can seem to think about.
6 Signs That You Are Experiencing Emotional Hunger:
- There’s an urgency — you want it right now! With physical hunger you may recognize it all of the sudden (such as if you’ve been hyper focused on work and forget to eat), but with emotional hunger you must have it NOW!
- You crave specific foods — you historically hanker for the same comforting foods. For me, it’s tortilla chips but for others it’s sweets or pizza or ice cream.
- You eat mindlessly — for instance, you finish a bag of chips and think, “Wait, where did they go?”
- You continue to eat after you’re full — in other words, food isn’t satisfying your hunger!
- You feel regret, guilt, or shame after you eat.
What can you do? Start connecting the dots! Begin to recognize when you are truly hungry. This might seem obvious but it you eat a meal and 30 minutes later you feel hungry, chances are you are not.
Every time you catch yourself wanting a “comfort food” ask yourself: “What’s going on here?” Give it a label. Do you feel thirsty (often confused with hunger)? Tired? Angry? Lonely? Rewarded? There are hundreds of emotions. What are your triggers?
Hack: Get in the habit of addressing the trigger out loud. “Oh, I know what this is about. I’m feeling frustrated because I can’t seem to get anyone to answer the phone today. Instead of eating my frustration I’m going to walk around the block.” In other words, identify, deflect, reframe, delay.
Pay attention to patterns. Do you eat watching television? When you’re reading or online? Do you eat just because it’s there?
Hack: Build new associations. If you must enjoy a snack while watching television (I get it — I love to snack at the movies!) make it a healthy snack.
Emotional hunger never really goes away. After all, the triggers never go away, however by developing your own set of tools and strategies it becomes easily recognized and managed.
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