Physiological hunger versus emotional hunger

Surely in some situation you have felt this: cravings and the need to eat late, open the pantry or the fridge without knowing very well what you are looking for, or think about food when you have to sit down to do a task.

Did you know that this feeling is understood as emotional hunger? They are impulses that are detrimental to your diet, and identifying them will be of great help to control them. Some of the main situations that we identify as “emotional hunger” are associated with the end of a hectic day full of stress, moments when the body relaxes; with when you have fewer tasks to do and confuse boredom with hunger; or an escape route from personal problems, turning to food for the release of hormones of happiness that it produces in our body.

We explain the difference between physiological and emotional hunger and some tips to control it.

What is physiological hunger?

Physiological hunger is the natural sensation that occurs in our body when you need nutrients to meet the body’s needs. People need nutrients derived from food to fulfill a multitude of internal and external functions.

We can classify nutrients as macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates), and as micronutrients: vitamins and minerals.

Identifying physiological hunger

Physiological hunger is natural, we all feel it, and it’s okay to even arrive a little hungry at the next meal. It is just an alert from our body that we need food.

Here are some notions to learn to identify physiological hunger:

  • It is not about food specifically, but can be relieved with different alternatives.
  • It is gradual, that is, it goes from least to greatest sensation.
  • You can wait to be satisfied.
  • It does not produce negative feelings, such as guilt when finishing.
  • It disappears when we reach satiety.

What is emotional hunger?

Emotional hunger occurs as reaction to escape certain emotions, which are usually negative. Our body is prepared to survive and feel good, it looks for a quick way to escape from certain situations that we dislike … and from this short-term point of view, what better than a rapid release of hormones through food.

Identifying emotional hunger

Analyzing our body and understanding it will make you have a better relationship with it and therefore you will get a better version of yourself.

Surely you’ve ever felt this instant hunger after a hectic day in the society we’ve built, or during boredom weekends not knowing what to do. We leave you some notions to identify when it is emotional hunger:

  • It is usually about specific foods, as they are often called “cravings.”
  • It is instantaneous and not gradual like the physiological one.
  • It has to be satisfied in the moment, contrary to the physiological it cannot wait.
  • It produces negative feelings when it is finished, such as feelings of guilt.
  • It takes longer to be satisfied and does not end when we are naturally satiated.

How to control emotional hunger

Once differentiating emotional hunger from physiological hunger, we have to learn to control emotional hunger to have a better balance in our habits and our health, obtaining a greater sense of well-being and fullness. Therefore, we leave you some guidelines to combat emotional hunger.

  • Many times we do not know how to differentiate hunger from thirst; staying hydrated throughout the day will not confuse these two sensations.
  • Having a structure in your diet will keep you satiated and energized throughout the day, avoiding possible anxiety to eat at specific times where circumstances are beyond your control.
  • Know yourself a little more, emotional balance is a fundamental pillar of health, for this it is always good to ask for help from a psychologist.
  • Meditation can be a great ally against emotional hunger, keeping your emotional instability at bay.

Improve your relationship with food

Improving your relationship with food is essential to improve your diet, it is the first step. This means breaking the traditional concept of diet, commonly understood as a circumstantial methodology to lose the maximum possible kilos in the shortest time, in any way, without taking into account health or other patterns. This is a mistake, the ideal is that your diet gives you a greater sense of well-being and fullness, that it helps you have more energy or even that it helps you prevent diseases.

The word diet actually means the set of foods that we eat in our day to day, and this it has to be varied, balanced and adapted to your person. There is still the belief that when a person goes on a diet there are prohibited foods, when in fact it is not true, but perhaps their consumption should be reduced.

There are no bad or good foods

A fairly common mistake is to label food as good or bad, depending on your goal. For example, think that there are good foods to lose weight. There are no healthy foods per se, health resides in the total count of food and daily actions.

We recommend that you vary foods, this will contribute to the richness of nutrients in your diet and will avoid generating excess allergies and intolerances. In this sense, a motto that we like a lot is:

“Neither a salad will make you healthier, nor a hamburger less healthy”

Help yourself improve your health with different habits incorporated into your routine, such as:

  • A better balance in our diet.
  • More physical activity
  • Better rest.
  • Greater emotional balance.

Changing your lifestyle is a process

Don’t go from white to black bring a greater balance in our life and our habits is a grayscale. Start small, changing and improving certain habits, it all adds up! If you can’t exercise for 5 days, maybe you can do 2, and that’s fine, you don’t have to eat all the perfect meals.

It is a process so small steps will help you develop a habit as you increasingly control those emotional impulses. If you set your mind to it, you are sure to make the total count of your daily diet more balanced and sustainable.

Start now! Don’t go back to dieting, but change your lifestyle forever.


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