Emotional hunger – how to deal with it?

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Emotional hunger – how to deal with it?

Are you familiar with such a concept as emotional hunger? It is not physiological, it appears suddenly and it is almost uncontrollable. It is associated with extreme, often very difficult emotions. Do you know how to recognise and deal with it? If not, we encourage you to read this article.

Physiological hunger is a natural sensation, inherent in human life. Although it can be associated negatively with, for example, anger when we are very hungry or a constant feeling of “sucking” when we are on a diet (poorly composed and too low in calories), the fact is that the feeling of hunger is primordial, like the need to go to the toilet. It allows physiological needs to be satisfied and just ‘is’.

Why do I feel physiological hunger?

Glucose is primarily responsible for the sensations of hunger and satiety. As a result of metabolic processes in the body, after eating a meal, blood glucose rises, making us feel full. The drop in glucose levels increases appetite. Other factors such as inadequate meal composition, chronic stress, drinking too little water, not getting enough sleep or illness can also influence the feeling of hunger.

Physiological hunger versus emotional hunger

Physiological hunger is related to metabolic processes in the body and is regulated by hormones and neurotransmitters. It increases gradually, and in the case of a healthy person, by eating regular meals, taking care of the appropriate fluid supply and regeneration, we are able to prevent it, or at least systematically reduce it. Emotional hunger, on the other hand, appears suddenly and cannot be easily controlled. It is most often associated with the need to satisfy a strong craving and is accompanied by a lack of satiety. Most often, after eating the craving, there is a need to hide the evidence of the ‘crime committed’ and remorse. Consuming such a meal gives only temporary relief and a feeling of satiety, and after a while the desire to eat something attractive reappears.

Is the desire for a meal only due to physiological or emotional hunger?

Definitely not! It is not always the case that the desire to eat a particular food or product is only linked to physiological or emotional hunger. Sometimes we simply want something, and as long as this is not associated with compulsive overeating and subsequent remorse, and in addition to this, eating a normal portion results in a feeling of satiation and satisfaction, this is a normal reflex that applies to all of us. Eating something for pleasure does not necessarily indicate an emotional hunger problem. If we are aware that ‘overeating problems’ will not solve them and that it is not the only way to deal with difficult emotions, then we can allow ourselves to do so.

How do we get emotional hunger under control?

We won’t hide.- getting emotional hunger under control is not that easy at all. The first step on the way to dealing with the problem is to learn how to distinguish body signals. How to do this? Unfortunately, we don’t have a clear answer to this. The body sends us signals every day and by being attentive and exploring awareness of our own physio, we can learn to notice them and read them accordingly. Emotional hunger often arises in the face of feeling extreme and difficult emotions. Being aware of this and being in a situation where we feel these emotions arise, questions can be asked:

  • What is the reason for this feeling of hunger that I am experiencing?
  • What time did I eat my last meal? And could it be physiological hunger?
  • What emotions am I feeling? How do I feel?

Once you have established where the hunger sensation is coming from, then you can regain control of the situation and decide what to do about it – whether, in the case of physiological hunger, to satisfy it with a full meal or, in the case of emotional hunger, to hold back and find another way to deal with the problem and emotions. In the case of emotional hunger, it is a good idea to prepare action patterns for yourself in advance – having these at hand will make it easier for you to manage. It seems easy in theory, but if emotional hunger has been with you for years, you may find it hard to recognize the first symptoms. Don’t give up, however, and remember that ‘problem eating’ or ‘stress eating is a problem that you can go to a specialist for help with, such as a psychodietitian or psychotherapist.

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