Know the Difference between your emotional and physical hunger

People with anxiety often report that they it causes them to overeat or binge eat – a case of emotional eating.

Of course, this is an unhealthy coping strategy that is best avoided and can be with the right information and strategies.

Overeating and binging tends to make people feel regret, guilt, or shame. Over time it can cause weight gain, which then is an additional or heightened source of more anxiety, which leads to overating and binging and so on and so forth. You get the picture.

An important first step in managing the problem is learning to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger.

Recognising Emotional Hunger

How do you experience Hunger?

Emotional hunger comes on suddenly. It hits you in an instant and feels overwhelming and urgent.

Physical hunger comes on more gradually. The urge to eat tends not feel as dire or demand instant satisfaction

Why do you feel Hungry?

Emotional hunger isn’t located in your stomach. You feel your hunger as a craving you can’t ignore. You’re focused on specific textures, tastes, and smells.

Physical hunger is based on your need for nutrition to refuel your body

What do you eat?

Emotional hunger craves specific comfort foods, especially fatty foods or sugary snacks that provide an instant rush.

When you’re physically hungry, almost anything sounds good—including healthy stuff like vegetables

How do you eat?

Emotional hunger often leads to mindless emotional eating. Before you know it, you’ve eaten a whole bag of chips or an entire tub of ice cream without really paying attention or enjoying it.

When you’re eating in response to physical hunger, you’re typically more aware of what you’re doing.

How you feel physically after you’ve eaten?

Emotional hunger isn’t satisfied once you’re full. You keep wanting more and more, often eating until you’re uncomfortably stuffed.

With physical hunger you feel satisfied when your stomach is full.

How do you feel emotionally after you’ve eaten?

Emotional hunger often leads to regret, guilt, or shame. If you feel like this after you eat, it’s likely because you know deep down that you’re not eating for nutritional reasons.

When you eat to satisfy physical hunger, you’re unlikely to feel guilty or ashamed because you’re simply giving your body what it needs.

Please note – People with untreated Type 2 diabetes can experience extreme hunger, even after they eat. This is often accompanied by other symptoms which are described here on the Diabetes Australia website . Consult your GP if you are concerned that you may have diabetes.

Dealing with Emotional Eating

Here are a few simple things that may help you deal with emotional eating

  • Become familiar with the tell tale signs of emotional hunger (see above)
  • Discover your triggers and learn to calm yourself without calories. If you can distract yourself for a few minutes, for example, the urge to eat often subsides
  • When you’re feeling hungry STOP before you put anything in your mouth. Ask yourself: Am I hungry? Am I thirsty? (we often we mistake hunger for thirst) If so what type of food/drink do I want?
  • Don’t just shove food into your mouth mindlessly. Eat slowly, paying attention to the smell, taste sound and texture of the food.
  • Stop eating just before you feel full and wait 10 – 20 minutes before eating more food if you are still hungry
  • If anxiety and stress is causing emotional hunger get help to deal with the underlying problem

Need a Guiding Hand to manage your Emotional Eating?

Does emotional hunger get the better of you? Need help dealing with anxiety? This is one of our areas of special interest and expertise.

Please feel free to give us a call on (07) 3352 3577 or use our online Request a Booking form