How To Tell The Difference Between Emotional and Psychological Hunger

People use food for a variety of reasons. Food can be used to combat stress, to celebrate a milestone, to qualm emotions and even boredom. Unfortunately, this is one of the many reasons people continue to struggle with their weight or have difficulties meeting their health and wellness goals. Typically, the food people eat out of emotion is “comfort food” or unhealthy food, and is most likely not providing nutrients.

Emotional Hunger Vs. Physiological Hunger

The first step to combating emotional hunger is to differentiate it from true physiological hunger. 

  • Emotional hunger comes on suddenly, whilst physiological hunger occurs gradually. 
  • When you are eating out of an emotion, you most likely crave a specific food and only that food will satisfy you. When you eat because you are actually hungry, you will eat what is available, because, if not, you will starve. 
  • When you are eating out of an emotion, you feel like you must eat right this second, while physiological hunger can wait, perhaps until dinner is ready. 
  • Lastly, emotional eating leaves you with feelings of guilt, while physiological hunger does not. This could cause a downward spiral of emotions and behaviors that would leave you feeling bad, eating more and feeling worse etc... 

What About Menstrual Cravings?

Research shows that our bodies do go through physiological changes during our menstrual cycle that result in cravings. The important thing is to identify this feeling as a craving or emotional hunger before choosing whether or not to act on it. 

To read more posts about all-things fertility, check out our dedicated section to the topic on our blog, Period Matters.

This is an excerpt from a post written by Dr. Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS, a clinical psychologist that helps clients achieve their health and wellness goals utilizing cognitive behavioral therapy. She specializes in stress reduction, health behavioral change and weight management. Check her out on Instagram. Abridged content curated and edited by Nayla Al-Mamlouk.

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