One of the keys to overcoming emotional eating and curbing food cravings is to discern physical hunger from emotional hunger. We live in a very fast paced society and just like everything else, even our meals are rushed.
We eat distractedly and nary a thought is given to what’s on our plate. We eat for happiness and comfort rather than paying importance to nutrition and how the food affects our health.
By being proactive and asking yourself, “Is this physical or emotional hunger?”, you’ll no longer be an automaton that eats mindlessly without thought.
Now let’s see how you can tell if you’re really hungry or just looking for food to placate your hunger or boredom.
Sudden vs gradual
Emotional hunger tends to appear suddenly. You start craving for sugary foods late at night or other comfort food. Physical hunger builds up gradually and can take several hours before your stomach starts to growl.
This is the most obvious difference between the two types of hunger.
Stomach instead of mouth
When you’re physically hungry, your stomach may growl and feel empty. With emotional hunger, your stomach is often full and you’re not hungry.
Instead, it’s your taste senses that are firing away. Your mouth waters at the thought of the sweet, tasty food. Emotional hunger is mostly based on what you feel above the neck.
When you’re physically hungry, consuming a healthy meal such as chicken and broccoli will appease your hunger because your stomach is full. The food might seem boring and tasteless to many people, but it will satisfy your hunger.
With emotional hunger, such nutritious food will be a turn off. Instead, you’ll crave for ice cream, doughnuts, cheeseburgers, fried chicken, etc.
Emotional hunger requires specific foods for you to feel sated. It’s not about sustenance but taste. You’re eating to feel happier or to mask your depression, boredom, etc.
You’ll not stop eating even when you’re full. Most people eating out of emotional hunger only stop when the food is finished. As this becomes a habit, they keep getting more and more unhealthy food and binge eating daily.
Confidence VS guilt
One common difference between the 2 hungers is how you feel after the meal. If you feel full and proud of yourself for eating healthy, you’ve satisfied physical hunger. You realize that food is fuel, and the food you eat gives you energy.
However, if you feel guilty and secretly condemn yourself for caving in to temptation, you probably ate to satisfy emotional hunger. The food you consume will give you a sugar high at first, but when the high crashes, you’ll feel tired and in a less than happy mood.
Foods consumed with emotional eating rarely leave you feeling happy for long. You’ll always need more junk food to medicate yourself.
To conclude, it’s easy to tell physical hunger from emotional hunger just by sensing how your stomach feels and what foods you’re craving for.
Whenever you’re feeling emotionally hungry, it’s best to engage in another activity that occupies your mind. Do not engage in a passive activity like watching TV, etc. These types of activities will make you crave more food.
Instead, try going for a walk or sleeping or gardening, etc. As long as you break the pattern and stop giving your emotional hunger whatever it wants when it wants it, you’ll conquer this problem and be in control of your mind and body.
Start slow and keep going forward.