Emotional Eating: Exploring the Hunger Inside
Eating is not just about eating. We do eat because we're hungry but we also eat because we're bored, lonely, sad, tired, angry, frustrated, or even happy. People turn to food for many different reasons, one main reason being comfort.
Many people try to lose weight only by focusing on what they should and shouldn't eat. They fail to look deeper to understand the reasons why they overeat. People must acknowledge the real reasons for their overeating - the hunger inside of them.
There is a difference between hunger and appetite. Hunger is physiological. It is a signal from the body - a grumbling and growling in the stomach - that indicates the body needs food. Appetite is psychological. It is a craving for certain foods without the feeling of hunger accompanying it. It can take practice to decipher whether you are physically hungry or emotionally hungry.
There are important distinctions between the two:
- Physical hunger usually occurs gradually. Emotional hunger tends to come on more quickly.
- When you are physically hungry, you are typically open to options as to what food(s) will satisfy you. When you are eating to fill an emotional void, you tend to crave a specific food.
- If you are eating because you're hungry, you're more likely to stop when you're full. You're more likely to continue to eat past the point of being full with emotional eating.
- Eating because you are physically hungry is rarely associated with guilt. Emotional eating, on the other hand, can leave a person feeling guilty and ashamed.
A food log is a great way to track what you are eating on a daily basis. However, many people track the foods they eat without tracking other critical information, such as hunger level and feelings. In order to break the cycle of emotional eating, you must first recognize it. The following food record contains important information that can help you see eating patterns and the emotions associated with them, such as:
- Time of day that meals or snacks are consumed.
- Hunger scale before eating and hunger scale after eating, ranging from 1 to 10 (refer to the following chart for how to rate hunger level):
10 = Stuffed to the point of feeling sick
9 = Very uncomfortably full, need to loosen your belt
8 = Uncomfortably full, feel stuffed
7 = Very full, feel as if you have overeaten
6 = Comfortably full, satisfied
5 = Comfortable, neither hungry nor full
4 = Beginning signals of hunger
3 = Hungry, ready to eat
2 = Very hungry, unable to concentrate
1 = Starving, dizzy, irritated
- Foods/beverages consumed
- 'Worth it' scale ranging from 1 to 10, with 1 being not worth it at all and 10 being very worth it.
- Additional comments, such as 'why did you eat?'
The food record can be downloaded here: http://www.weight-loss-motivation-program.com/dailyfoodrecord.pdf.
Marilyn Migliore, MS, RD, ACSW, BCD, developed a nationally recognized treatment program for people struggling with eating and weight disorders called "The Hunger Within." The program is available in-person as a workshop and also as a self-help book. "The Hunger Within" helps people explore the core reasons for their overeating and their psychological barriers to weight loss.
Visit the following link to learn more: http://www.thehungerwithin.com/.
This next week, pay closer attention to your eating patterns by keeping track of not only the foods you eat, but also how you are feeling. Practice asking yourself, "What am I really hungry for?" You will begin to recognize that often your body is craving laughter, sleep, exercise, or peace and quiet.