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Emotional Hunger vs. Physical Hunger

December 8, 2017



For most people, food is not just about satisfying our physical hunger and need for nutrients, but satisfying our emotional needs as well.


Have you ever found yourself thinking: “Why do I reach for cookies when I’m tired? Why do I crave ice cream after a fight with my partner?”. Reflecting on these questions and your answers to them, will get you to the heart of what Healthy Living means for you - the stuff that mindless eating attempts to cover up.


During the Healthy Living Program, people can feel more emotional than usual. This is because cleansing is not just about the body. When you release emotional eating, you also release emotional toxins like fear, stress and anxiety.


This can be scary, but like any challenge, if we spend some time reflecting on it, we usually surprise ourselves with what we discover. When you feel a craving or an emotional release happening, give it space and be gentle with yourself. Don’t make it about the food.


Go deeper.


Ask yourself, “what’s really going on here?” The answer is closer than you think.

Hunger: True & Emotional

When faced with the sensation of “hunger” during your program, consider the possibility that it might not be true hunger. In our Western culture, what we call hunger is often the physical manifestation of an emotion that is asking to be “numbed” or comforted.


If left alone and quietly observed, emotional hunger becomes an opportunity for immense growth. When that “hunger” sensation arises, mindfully keep your attention on it, and ask yourself: What am I really feeling?


If it’s boredom, restlessness or any other emotion, truly allow yourself to feel it. You don’t have to wallow in unhappiness or negativity, but simply recognize what the true feeling is, and put a name to it.


Am I truly hungry or am I feeling anxious / nervous / sad / upset right now? With a little effort, this exploration can help bring awareness to the difference between true hunger and emotional hunger. Understanding this distinction on a personal level can help stop the cycle of bad habits that lead to food cravings, weight gain, and poor health.

Here is a useful way to determine if what you are feeling is TRUE hunger.

It gradually arises

You’re open to different food options

Doesn’t have to be fulfilled immediately

You stop when you’re full

You feel good when finished vs. stuffed

Whereas with EMOTIONAL hunger…

It arises suddenly

You crave one particular food only

You find you must eat RIGHT NOW

You keep eating even when full

You feel guilty, shameful, or unsatisfied

Emotional Hunger Tips:

Hydrate: Drink water or have a cup of tea instead. Hydrating yourself during your program is important because it keeps the bowels moving and helps flush out released toxins. It is also the most important nutrient to your body and will often satisfy the physical desire.

Switch it up: Get up and go for a walk, call a friend or write a letter to a loved one, finish a work project, or simply stay with that feeling and let it rise up and then fall away naturally (which it will inevitably do), without having consumed any food. You may even feel the negative sensation change to a very pleasant one. The sense of empowerment that comes from this change can be amazing.

True Hunger Tips:

Eat mindfully and in a serene and distraction-free environment. Check in on your daily caloric intake: While we're not big fans of calorie counting, noticing how many calories you’re eating can be useful. Often, people new to the Healthy Living program will under-eat, and this can cause cravings, anxiety, and poor sleep. The amount of nutrient-dense food a person needs each day depends on their level of activity, but a good benchmark is eating a minimum of 1200 calories and 50-80 grams of protein each day.


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