Emotional hunger: what is it and how can you avoid it?

In general, people should eat only when they are hungry, but what happens when the opposite happens? This phenomenon is known as emotional hunger and the truth is that it could bring some health complications. For many it may be something difficult to understand, so it is necessary to know what does it consist of and of course, how to avoid it.

Emotional hunger What is it about?

At least once, some people may have heard the term "emotional eating." Or at least, the phrase “it's not hunger, it's just boredom”. Without a doubt, it is a concept with which many feel identified and that has also been used more frequently than normal. This is one of the reasons why it is essential to know what is emotional hunger and how to avoid it.

In simple words, the emotional hunger disorder It is a phenomenon that occurs when food is used for the wrong reasons. For example, eating to improve your mood, especially in any difficult situation. Starting from that sense, the main objective of food; which in this case is nutrition, would remain in the background.

Today, people often go through difficult situations, causing them to feel frustration, sadness, disappointment and anger. By not having any kind of personal resource or tools to overcome, they usually resort to consuming food to find calm.

It should be borne in mind that the intake of some specific foods serves to activate what is known as the reward circuit in the brain. This causes the body to experience various sensations, most of which are very pleasant.

However, it is a feeling that is only temporary and once dissipated, it only generates greater discomfort. In addition, to this is added a great feeling of guilt for the fact of eating too much. All of this is known as emotional hunger.

[You may also be interested in: Are you physically or emotionally hungry? Learning to distinguish it is essential to lose weight]

What are the main causes of emotional hunger?

The main cause of emotional hunger centers on the fact of not knowing how to control emotions and not knowing how to listen to the body. There are cases in which a person does not have the ability to differentiate a physiological sensation from emotional sensations such as sadness or anxiety. This causes great confusion in the brain, coming to believe that it is physical hunger when the truth is only emotional hunger.

Not knowing how to control emotions can trigger a lot of anxiety and increase stress levels. As a consequence, people choose to eat large amounts of food, since they feel a huge emptiness that is usually confused with the desire to eat.

For this reason, it is very important to implement measures as soon as possible, to prevent the problem from getting worse. Bearing in mind that the emotional hunger and physical hunger They are completely different phenomena, so you have to know how to differentiate them in time.

Real hunger vs physical hunger

Now, to recognize this disorder caused by emotions, it is very important to recognize the real hunger and emotional hunger. Both have characteristics that define them, the following being the most notable:

Real hunger

– Normally, it appears at low levels and increases progressively.

– Being a physiological sensation, the craving to eat begins in the stomach.

– You can plan what kind of food you are going to eat and the feeling of hunger can be easily controlled. What even allows to prepare a healthy menu that provides essential nutrients to the body.

– In general, the foods that are chosen are rich in nutrients and you can choose a meal that generates satiety.

Emotional hunger

– In the case of emotional hunger, it occurs unexpectedly, abruptly and at the same time acute. Which turns hunger into a desire that must be satisfied immediately.

– Unlike real hunger, this does not come from the stomach, because it has nothing to do with the physiological part. In this case the sensation begins in the mind, generated by various mental images that foods. When a person imagines a specific kind of food, this produces a huge impulse that causes them to lose control completely.

– Carrying out any diet in these conditions is practically impossible. Emotional hunger causes the person to eat uncontrollably, they do not choose between healthy food and junk food. You lose the ability to calculate adequate servings, you only eat on impulse and in unhealthy amounts.

– You fall into the temptation to eat ultra-processed and hypercaloric foods, these contain excess sugar and fat. In addition, its nutritional value is completely nil, which can seriously harm health. These foods do not calm the urge to eat and to do so, it will only be for a very short time and then the hunger will increase again.

What to do to avoid emotional hunger?

The difference between the physical hunger and emotional hunger It is more than evident, so the first step to avoid the latter is knowing how to identify it. In this way, it will be very easy to recognize the phenomenon that needs to be fought and prevented. In the case of real hunger, everything is simpler once identified, but when it comes to emotional hunger, everything is more difficult.

Once the urge to eat occurs, it is necessary to be alert. That is, as soon as the feeling of hunger arrives, the first thing to do is stay calm. In this way, it will be possible to identify whether it is real or emotional hunger, bearing in mind the characteristics of both.

As a recommendation, a registry of these situations can be implemented and thus, know the causes of emotional hunger. Remember that most people who fall into this kind of hunger, experienced anxiety, emptiness or sadness before starting to eat.

Recognizing the emotions that lead a person to binge eat is one of the main steps. Now, it is time to implement a strategy that serves to overcome emotional hunger and start eating healthier. In this case, it is advisable to go to a therapist, perform diaphragmatic breathing and even help yourself through meditation.

Food has an essential objective, this is to nourish the body so that it can function properly. Mentalizing that there is no other purpose with food intake can be of great help. So it is important to find a way not to relate food to emotions and thus find the true balance.

What are the consequences of emotional hunger?

Emotional hunger can have serious consequences for people with this disorder. By consuming food excessively, this favors a large increase in weight, which could later become overweight and obesity. Both problems in turn generate multiple ailments, especially in the digestive system. So it must be solved once the problem is identified.

On the other hand, emotional hunger can also lead to complications in mental health. The feeling of guilt that occurs after eating can be more complicated than most people think. This could trigger serious depression and anxiety that, added to weight gain, can even cause the person to even think about suicide.

In extreme cases, the best recommendation is to go to a psychologist as soon as possible. Seeking professional help is always necessary when complex and unhealthy situations arise. The help of a nutritionist is also essential in cases like these, in this way, a balanced diet can help prevent these kinds of disorders.

On the other hand, the support of family and friends is also key in situations of stress and anxiety. Emotional hunger can be caused just by feeling sad, empty, or any unhealthy emotion. For this reason, having the support of loved ones is always essential to overcome any situation. Good mental stability allows you to maintain serenity, promotes self-control and prevents disorders such as emotional hunger and the like.


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