What is emotional hunger and how to combat it in quarantine

It is possible that in the situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic you may have experienced some change in your eating habits. An emptiness, a desire, a sudden hunger that prompts you to go to the kitchen several times to investigate the cabinets or the refrigerator, but without knowing exactly what you are looking for. This situation is called emotional hunger.

“The information overexposure about the coronavirus, the deaths of our loved ones and the fear of contagion, constantly present in us, generate feelings that, on occasions, we can't control. As an escape route, many of us use food, as others use alcohol, gambling or sex, "explains Angela Albaladejo, nutritional psychologist at Clínica Londres and founder of the AAB psychology center.

Emotional hunger vs. physical hunger

The specialist states that the first step should be "learning to differentiate between physical and emotional hunger." The first arises adaptively and is a "response to the demand for nutrients or energy from our body." The second, however, cannot be satiated with food. Her goal, "is to calm an emotion, different in each one of us, generating a feeling of guilt because, by succumbing, we have failed ourselves," says the nutritional psychologist.

To combat emotional hunger you have to identify your triggers. It is key to recognize when, where and with whom it appears. One of the best ways to identify the patterns behind this disorder is to keep track with a food and mood journal. "It will help us control our anxiety and identify the situations that generate stress or conflict, at home or at work, so that we can rationalize it and propose alternatives or solutions," says the expert.

"Diets only work if you have conscious control over your eating habits because if they cannot generate a rebound effect"

And how can we overcome it? Albaladejo bets on following a balanced menu and warns about the imposed diets: "They only work if you have conscious control over your eating habits because, otherwise, they can generate a rebound effect."

In the event that the problem of emotional hunger worsens, the London Clinic recommends consulting a multidisciplinary team that includes a psychologist. If the issue is temporary, from a specific moment, we can follow some tips to improve our condition:

1. Curb momentum and wait: We have more power over our cravings than we think. And if we can postpone it, we may not feel like it later.

2. Keep the body hydrated: Sometimes we confuse hunger with thirst. Before eating, try drinking water or herbal teas.

3. Distract the mind: Reading, watching television, listening to music or talking on the phone are activities that can help us avoid ourselves.

4. Avoid 'empty calories': Foods with empty calories are those that provide a lot of energy and few nutrients. Alcoholic beverages, industrial pastries or sugar are some examples.

5. Have healthy alternatives at home:

  • Choose low-calorie products such as sugar-free gelatins, teas, pickled gherkins or chewing gum, among others.
  • Cooking homemade recipes allows you to control ingredients and replace some with healthier ones.
  • Occasionally we can also choose products that contain good nutritional values ​​such as 90% dark chocolate, pure cocoa, defatted smoothie fresh cheese, skyr yogurts …

To learn more about this disorder and learn methods to control it, Angela Albaladejo will teach a seminar organized by Clínica Londres. The event, which will be broadcast live on Instagram, will take place on Friday the 10th at 5:00 p.m. and you can register in the following form.