Emotional Hunger Vs. Actual Hunger

This week we’ve defined emotional eating and given examples of triggers. Today we continue to talk about the difference between emotional hunger and actual hunger:

  • Emotional hunger is instant. It’s an overwhelming sense of “I have to have__________ right now”. Physical hunger comes on gradually and isn’t demanding.

  • Emotional hunger is food-specific . It often makes you want fatty foods, sugar, or comfort food. When you are actually hungry, you are willing to eat almost anything, including fruits and vegetables, to help ease your hunger.

  • Emotional hunger doesn’t stem from your stomach. It is in your head, is psychological, and can cause you to obsess over the smell or taste of a certain food. Actual hunger originates from your stomach being empty and your body needing energy.

  • Emotional hunger is not satisfied. You don’t feel full or like the craving has gone away. You may eat until you’re stuffed and it’s still not gone. Actual hunger, once you’ve eaten, goes away when your stomach is full.

  • Emotional hunger often is mindless. What starts off as “I really want a few potato chips” leads to “I can’t believe I ate the whole bag!” When you are eating because of actual hunger, you have more awareness of portions and being full.

  • Emotional hunger causes shame, guilt, and ultimately regret. You may finish that pint of ice cream, swearing you’ll never allow yourself to eat the whole thing again. You probably shame yourself and beat yourself up for allowing it to happen. Physical hunger will not make you feel guilty if you are eating to fuel your body.

Continue to read tomorrow as we will talk about the impact emotional eating can have on you.

Written by guest author Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW

Christy is a licensed therapist at Journey to Joy Counseling in Carmel, Indiana. She specializes in Individual Counseling, Couples/Marriage Counseling, Premarital Counseling, Family Counseling,  and Teen/Adolescent Counseling.