“UGH…! I am so hungry…! I gotta eat, NOW…!” Now, that is hunger… Right…?
Ever been there…? Ever notice you never reach for that nice salad…? Seems like only that bag of cookies will do. Yes, the entire bag… only to feel horrible about eating every cookie in the house — and still be hungry.
The likely reasons behind episodes, like that one, happening in homes, across the nation, can be as “simple” as confusing thirst, as hunger, or as complex, as emotional eating. Emotional eating, in a nutshell, is eating for reasons other than fueling the body. It is defined as, “…overeating in order to relieve negative emotions. Thus, emotional eating is considered a maladaptive coping strategy.”
Since emotional eating is beyond the scope of our post, just understand that emotional eating is way different from eating to satisfy physical hunger. Recognizing those differences is our goal.
Take a look at the characteristics of physical hunger, and emotional hunger, and the difference is clear.
Characterisitics of Physical hunger:
- Comes on gradually; can be postponed
- Can be satisfied with any type of food
- Can stop eating, once you’re full
- Brings satiety; doesn’t cause guilt.
In stark contrast…
Characterisitics of Emotional Hunger:
- Comes on suddenly; feels urgent
- Causes specific cravings
- Eat more than normal; feel uncomfortably full
- Brings on feelings of guilt and self-shaming
Can you see either set of these characteristics, in your life…? Do you experience emotional hunger, or actual physical hunger…?
As the most complex obstacle, to successful eating, emotional eating may require professional help, to overcome. Interestingly, “[o]ne way to combat emotional eating is to employ mindfulness techniques. For example, approaching cravings with a nonjudgmental inquisitiveness can help differentiate between hunger and emotionally-driven cravings. An individual may ask his or herself if the craving developed rapidly, as emotional eating tends to be triggered spontaneously. An individual may also take the time to note his or her bodily sensations, such as hunger pangs, and coinciding emotions, like guilt or shame, in order to make conscious decisions to avoid emotional eating.” So, simply stop to ask yourself why you’re hungry, and what you’re feeling. That is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, seeing the differences between the characteristics of emotional hunger versus physical hunger can give us direction.
In the next part, of our series on Understanding Your Hunger, we will discuss what may prove the simplest, most straightforward obstacle — thirst.
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