Emotional Hunger vs. Physical Hunger
There can be several reasons why you could be eating too much. Physiological reasons include hormones, lack of sleep, habit, and so forth. Emotional reasons might include boredom, stress, emotional pain or even mental health issues such as anxiety or depression (which are a combination physiological and emotional). To get started, first begin to notice your hunger patterns.
Identify Your Hunger Style
Review the statements below and see which category best describes you. If more responses under Emotional Hunger sound like you, you may benefit from counseling. People struggling with binge eating behavior, emotional eating or yo-yo dieting often identify with emotional hunger patterns. Remember that some of the emotional hunger signs could still be connected to physiological issues, but a trained therapist can help you identify and sort out those triggers.
- Your desire to eat comes on quickly and intensely like an on/off switch. Your degree of hunger can go from zero to ten in a matter of moments.
- You are very open to suggestion (for example, your friend says she’s going out for a donut and suddenly a donut sounds very good to you).
- Your hunger increases with certain feelings, particularly stress.
- You can’t think through your options. Your feeling of hunger is so intense that you don’t care what your options are – until after you have eaten something.
- Your hunger is such that it urges you to engage in mindless eating – that is, not really tasting your food or eating it in an automatic, mechanical way (for example, mindlessly eating a bag of chips while zoned out in front of the TV).
- A sense of satisfaction is hard to reach, and it seems unrelated to how full or how empty your stomach is.
- You often have the fleeting thought before you begin eating that you may feel guilty after you’ve eaten. Also, you often experience guilt after you finish eating.
- Your eating drive is often influenced by the value of the dollar and is susceptible to all-you-can-eat buffets and free food.
- You notice that your need for food grows gradually in accordance with the time and number of meals you ate. For example, between breakfast and lunch your hunger increases at a slowly rising rate.
- You experience distinct physiological hunger cues, like a rumbling stomach. In the extreme, you may feel irritable or grouchy or even get a headache.
- You tend to quit eating when you are full, even if that means leaving some food on your plate.
- You know that feeding your physical hunger is essential as its the fuel that nourishes you and keeps you going.
- You can wait a while to eat, instead of needing to eat compulsively at the very moment you feel the urge or desire to eat.
- Your hunger is not in any way associated with guilt. You know that you need to eat and you feel okay about eating.
- You enjoy the pleasure of eating, including creating a satisfying ambience around food, such as sitting to eat at the dinner table with candlelight instead of in front of the TV or at the kitchen counter.
Want more help with eating too much?
Click here to learn more or attend our Houston workshop, Make Peace with Food, Mind, Body & Emotions to get a jump start to help you understand why you’re eating too much and what to do about it. Participate in our 12-week group program to go in depth on making lifelong peace with food, mind, body & emotions.
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