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[ARTICLE] What is Emotional Eating?
Filed Under: Nutrition | Published: Jul 13, 2017 | Author: HelpGuide.org

Occasionally using food as a pick me up, a reward, or to celebrate isn't necessarily a bad thing. But when eating is your primary emotional coping mechanism when your first impulse is to open the refrigerator whenever you are stressed, upset, angry, lonely, exhausted, or bored you get stuck in an unhealthy cycle where the real feeling or problem is never addressed.

Emotional hunger can not be filled with food. Eating may feel good in the moment, but the feelings that triggered the eating are still there. And you often feel worse than you did before because of the unnecessary calories you have just consumed.

No matter how powerless you feel over food and your feelings, it is possible to make a positive change. You can find healthier ways to deal with your emotions, learn to eat mindfully instead of mindlessly, regain control of your weight, and finally put a stop to emotional eating.

The difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger

Emotional hunger can be powerful, so it is easy to mistake it for physical hunger. But there are clues you can look for to help you tell physical and emotional hunger apart.

Emotional hunger comes on suddenly. It hits you in an instant and feels overwhelming and urgent. Physical hunger, on the other hand, comes on more gradually. The urge to eat does not feel as dire or demand instant satisfaction (unless you have not eaten for a very long time).

Emotional hunger craves specific comfort foods. When you are physically hungry, almost anything sounds good including healthy stuff like vegetables. But emotional hunger craves junk food or sugary snacks that provide an instant rush. You feel like you need cheesecake or pizza, and nothing else will do.

Emotional hunger often leads to mindless eating. Before you know it, you have eaten a whole bag of chips or an entire pint of ice cream without really paying attention or fully enjoying it. When you are eating in response to physical hunger, you are typically more aware of what you are doing.

Emotional hunger is not satisfied once you are full. You keep wanting more and more, often eating until you are uncomfortably stuffed. Physical hunger, on the other hand, does not need to be stuffed. You feel satisfied when your stomach is full.

Emotional hunger is not located in the stomach. Rather than a growling belly or a pang in your stomach, you feel your hunger as a craving you can not get out of your head. You are focused on specific textures, tastes, and smells.

Emotional hunger often leads to regret, guilt, or shame. When you eat to satisfy physical hunger, you're unlikely to feel guilty or ashamed because you are simply giving your body what it needs. If you feel guilty after you eat, it is likely because you know deep down that you are not eating for nutritional reasons.

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