Often, hunger can strike without any forewarning. In a perfect world, our body would send hunger signals to our brain whenever it really needed food to function properly. However, we humans are far from perfect and hunger doesn’t always indicate any real need for food.
The problem is that there is more than one form of hunger: there’s physical hunger, the kind which indicates a real demand for food from our body, and there is emotional hunger, the kind that makes us desire food even when we don’t need it physically.
Emotional hunger is caused by the fact that many of us find comfort in food. It begins in early infancy, when parents use food as a pancea for any time a baby cries out. We learn the connection between food and “feeling better” very early in our life and it becomes a habit that’s not easy to shake off.
This is why so many people suffer from emotional eating and binge eating: food is the easiest source of comfort we know.
Some of us feel hungry when we’re sad, depressed, stressed out, tired, bored, and so on.
What can you do
The first thing you can do is to figure out what you’re really feeding: your body or your emotions?
To do that you need to figure out how to be able to tell when the hunger you’re feeling is physical and when it’s due to some emotional cause:
Here are some tips:
What are you feeling
If what you’re feeling is emotional hunger, then you must be experiencing some kind of emotion. So, whenever you feel hungry, do you also feel depressed, sad, stressed out, etc.?
If so, what you really need to do is address your emotions, not try to solve them with food.
Is what you feeling hunger or craving
Not all food can be used as comfort food. Each of us has some foods that we turn to for comfort. If you’re feeling a craving for one specific food or another, it is usually due to an emotional cause. If your hunger is physical, it will not be focused on specific foods as such, just food in general.
Is it hard to resist
Real hunger is usually one which can be held off. You can easily wait for 30-60 minutes before rushing to the fridge. Emotional hunger is sudden, harsh, and penetrating, the kind that just can’t be delayed or ignored. What are you feeling? Do you feel in control over your hunger, or is your hunger in control of you?
Sudden and when opportunity arises
Cravings often materialize when opportunity presents itself. You can be not-hungry, but if someone offers you cake, you may suddenly feel like you’re starving. This is just your mind at play. You’re not really hungry.
Wait and see
Real hunger is easier to maintain but it will not really go away until you eat something nutritious. Emotional hunger happens when you’re in turmoil. Often, waiting is the easiest course to take. You will find that once you’re calm again, that your hunger is gone.
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Emotional eating is a major problem that millions of people suffer from. To make sure you don’t ruin your diet by eating more than you need to when you don’t really need to, make sure to take the above steps and learn to tell which kind of hunger you’re feeling.