Emotional Hunger: What It Is And What Can Be Done To Combat It

emotional hunger

One day someone told me that there were always going to be obese people, and even though he mentioned it in a work context, the reality is that that phrase, in addition to being true, is not encouraging at all.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Survey (ENSANUT), in 2016, 73% of the adult population in Mexico was already suffering from overweight or obesity; ranking second in the world behind the United States, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

It is known that the problem lies in the type of food we eat, the frequency and the quantities. However, there is a factor that, in some way, interferes with the art of good eating, since we do not always eat because we are really hungry, sometimes it is done to cover up certain emotions. The latter is known as emotional hunger or emotional eating

Difference between physiological hunger and emotional hunger

Physical or physiological hunger, once it appears, tends to increase gradually and can be satisfied with any type of food, so you can choose a healthy meal without problems Once you eat, you don’t need more as you experience the feeling of satiety.

On the contrary, emotional hunger comes on suddenly with a desire to eat a specific food, especially unhealthy food; However, once you manage to satisfy the craving, that apparent “hunger” does not disappear, because you want to continue eating.

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The relationship between hunger and emotions

From a young age, consciously or unconsciously, we associate food with emotions. For example, a baby’s feeling of security when drinking her milk in mom or dad’s arms; rewards with sweets or unhealthy food for achieving an achievement, whether good behavior or high grades. There is even a popular phrase that says: “sorrows with bread are less,” so we learn that sadness, abandonment, resentment, among others, are reduced by eating.

In situations of sadness or happiness, Food can activate reactions in the brain that are pleasurable An example of this is chocolates, which trigger a compound called phenylethylamine, which generates a state of well-being; In addition, chocolate releases endorphins and serotonin, which is why it is considered a natural antidepressant.

filling the void

As mentioned above, it is not a real feeling of hunger, but rather an unconscious desire to fill a void, which is not in your stomach… it is an emotional discomfort. In this case, the person cannot take care of this discomfort since sometimes he is not aware of it, so he confuses that feeling with hunger and tries to compensate for it by eating.

On the other hand, there are times when the person is aware of those specific emotions, but has not made the decision to attend to them, so this dissatisfaction continues.

Perhaps if the person questioned themselves about the hunger they feel, they could come to the conclusion that it could be hunger for affection, needing a hug; perhaps fear of being abandoned, of feeling alone, of being rejected; Or simply going through a moment of great worry or anxiety No matter how hard you try, it is something that food can never satisfy, and consequently contributes to weight gain and causes feelings of guilt.

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How to satisfy emotional hunger

The first step may be to realize what you are feeling or thinking at that moment when you cannot be satisfied; Maybe you are going through a situation in your life that causes you worry, sadness, stress, happiness. Give a name to what you are feeling, discover what thoughts invade your mind, and what need you have at that moment.

Go to the nutritionist. When it comes to nutrition, it is necessary to learn what portions are appropriate for you, in addition to keeping track of the hours in which you have to eat. That way, you will be able to more easily identify when emotions start to get confused with hunger.

Do exercise. This will allow you, in addition to improving your health, discharge negative emotions such as stress and anxiety It also works as a natural antidepressant, releasing endorphins and serotonin that improve mood. Seek help to work through that emotional discomfort. You can start by sharing it with someone you trust; If the problem persists, do not hesitate to go to the psychologist, who will give you the necessary help.

The main thing in this topic is to pay attention to the emotional needs that you may present. Otherwise you give your body an excess of food intake, which ends up being harmful to your health. Listen to your body and attend to its needs. Give your emotional area the importance it requires, so that you find the well-being you deserve.

Author: Psic. Angel Ximenez.