Physical Hunger Vs Emotional Hunger

Have you ever…

Stood in front of the fridge for an embarrassingly long amount of time, desperately searching for the exact item of food you’re craving (that you’re unsure even exists) shut the door in frustration, only to come back and repeat that cycle ten minutes later?

We’ve all been there.

Eating that is precipitated by emotion rather than ration is something that we’ve all been guilty of, and is something that can actually be quite difficult to distinguish. Emotional hunger can be really powerful, and as a result, can be easy to mistake for physical hunger.

Ask yourself the question.

If you think you may sometimes misunderstand your motives to eat, try and be conscious next time you go to snack. It may sound obvious, but the first step is being aware and recognising when and why you eat emotionally. Ask yourself, “Am I really hungry or am I just responding to an emotion?”

You’re only human!

Using food occasionally as a pick-me-up or to celebrate is normal! It’s only when it becomes a habit or a coping mechanism (when your first impulse is to open the fridge whenever you’re feeling upset, angry, stressed, or bored) that you can get stuck in an unhealthy cycle. Here are some guidelines of how to distinguish between the two:


True Hunger Emotional Hunger
Arises gradually at natural eating times throughout the day Arises suddenly at random times.
You’re open to different food options Only crave one specific food
Doesn’t have to be filled immediately Has to be eaten straight away
Stop when full and satisfied Keep eating even when full
You feel good when finished You feel guilty, shameful or unsatisfied when finished.


Need some tips on how to snack right?

Keep hydrated!

Before you give in to the snack attack, try to ease the hunger with water first. Fill up your drink bottle or have a cup of tea; you might surprise yourself with how full you feel. Additionally, keeping yourself hydrated is important to keep your bowels in check and to help flush out unwanted toxins

Change your routine.

Do something to distract you in the short term. Get up and go for a walk, call your mum, finish a project, start a puzzle (seriously – they’re underrated!) or simply let the feeling and pass away naturally (which it will more than likely do), without having actually consumed any food. The sense of empowerment that can come from this change can be amazing. 

Snack mindfully.

Try to eat consciously in distraction-free environments. That is, not while you’re on the phone, instagramming and painting your nails all at once. Try things like hummus and guacamole with veggies, raw nut butter on some apple slices, a quick soup, or fresh green juice are all great options.


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