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Emotional Hunger vs Physical Hunger


Although it can be difficult to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger, there are several differences that may help you to interpret what you’re feeling. You may notice I haven’t associated a ‘grumbling tummy’ with physical hunger. This is because our stomachs make noises/similar sensations for other reasons too.😀


Emotional hunger; the sense of needing/wanting to eat regardless of whether there’s a physical need or not, can be triggered by both negative and positive emotions. You may reach for the ice-cream when you’re feeling sad, grab some chocolate if you’re bored or detour to the shop to get crisps simply because you’re happy it’s Friday. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with using food in response to your feelings some of the time, it can become an issue if it’s your primary response/coping mechanism, causing you to regularly overeat.


For many it doesn’t end there, as an unhealthy cycle forms; something happens to upset you ➡️ emotional hunger is triggered and you reach for comfort food ➡️ you may feel good in the moment but afterwards not only do the original feelings remain, you may also feel guilt/shame/regret over what you’ve eaten ➡️ you feel more sad…and the cycle continues.😢


Sound familiar?


It’s important to identify why and when you eat. In clinic, we (dietitians) may use a ‘Food and Mood Diary’ asking clients to write down everything they consume over a week, along with; the time of day, where they ate, who they were with, how they felt before they ate and why, what there were doing at the time, what they felt as they were eating and how they felt in the 1-2 hours afterwards.


Once emotional eating triggers have been identified, strategies to overcome them can be considered.❤️