Are you hungry for food or for...something else

“Emotional eating is an attempt to deal with a tough problem, feeling, or situation we don’t otherwise know how to deal with, and often don’t even know that we have without some kind of symptom to remind us. …..When we strip away the judgement of our emotional eating, and stop calling it a disease, a defect, a problem in and of itself; we can finally see it for what it is: An alert that something in our life needs our attention. Something completely unrelated to food or our weight. Be grateful for the reminder. It might be saving your ass.” - Isabel Foxen Duke

Have you noticed that sometimes you are eating not because you are physically hungry but because instead you feel bored/sad/angry/tired/lonely? The reason dietary recommendations and new diet plans don't really work to change our relationship with food is because very often when we are over-eating this isn't because we don't know WHAT we should be eating - it is because we are hungry for something other than food! Whether that is comfort, intimacy, relief from boredom or stress, a sugar-rush to relieve us from tiredness - will depend on the individual. In fact, we can be grateful for craving food in these moments - because often it is an alert that something is wrong in our lives - something that we can look at (non-judgmentally) and then try and work-at/improve.

However many people I work with have been eating due to sadness/boredom/loneliness/anxiety for so long that they don't know the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine whether you are hungry for food... or hungry for something else:

1. Do you have a sudden urge to eat – often after something has happened, someone has said something or you think a negative thought? – this is often emotional hunger, physical hunger will usually present itself more gradually.

2. Do you feel hungry despite having just eaten a good meal not long ago or once you start eating do you find that you can’t stop? – often emotional hunger can persist despite you eating lots of food. So you may notice that even though you have eaten just recently or that after you eat, you still want more and more… to try and numb that emotion/ satisfy that boredom.

3. Do you crave very specific and often very unhealthy or sugary foods? This is usually emotional hunger, because you want these food for the quick rush they will give you rather than for nourishment.