Emotional Hunger

This is from 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food by Susan Albers.  It struck a cord with me because sometimes I have difficulty telling Emotional Hunger from actual hunger, even now, after RNY.

Emotional Hunger is characterized by some or all of the following:

  • Your desire to eat comes on quickly and intensely like an on/off switch.  Your degree of hunger can go from zero to ten in a matter of moments.
  • You are very open to suggestion (for example, a coworker says she’s going out for a donut, and suddenly a donut sounds very good to you)
  • Your hunger increases with certain feelings, particularly stress.
  • You can’t think through your options.  Your feeling of hunger is son intense that you don’t care what your options are – until after you have eaten something.
  • Your hunger is such that it urges you to engage in mindless eatint – that is, not really tasting your food or eating it in an automatic, mechanical way (for example, mindlessly popping a packet of M&M’s into your mouth one by one).
  • You crave a particular kind of food, like chocolate or fast-food; something that would be merely filling just won’t do.
  • A sense of satisfaction is hard to reach, and it seems unrelated to how full or how empty your stomach is.
  • You often have the fleeting thought before you begin eating that you may feel guilty after you’ve eaten.  Also, you often experience guilt after you finish eating.

True physical hunger is realted to blood sugar levels.  Therefore, your physical need for food is based on what and when you ate last.

  • You notice that your need for food grows gradually in accordance with the time and the number of meals you ate.  For example, between breakfast and lunch your hunger increases at a slowly rising rate.
  • You are looking for something filling, and you’re open to many different options to fill that hunger, rather than craving a specific taste.
  • You experience distinct physiological hunger cues, like a rumbling stomach.  In the extreme, you may feel grouchy or even get a headache.
  • You tend to quit eating when you are full.
  • Your awareness of your body’s changing sensations as you move from hunger to satiety while you are eating, creates a sense of satisfaction.
  • You know that feeding your physical hunger is essential as the fuel that nourishes you and keeps you going.
  • Youc an wait a while to eat, instead of need to eat compulsively at the very moment you feel the urge or desire to eat.
  • Your hunger is not in any way associated with guilt.  You know that you need to eat and you feel ok about eating.

Albers, S. (2009).  50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food.  Oakland:  New Harbinger Publications, Inc.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. craftychristie
    Nov 24, 2010 @ 05:44:52

    WOW. Reading this was really enlightening. My “hunger” used to be ALL of the things described in the emotional hunger section. The cravings, the dissatisfaction, and especially the instant hunger… my hunger would hit me like a ton of bricks.

    Now, MOST of my hunger can be described through the physical hunger section. I occasionally still experience a craving but it is so much more rare!


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