Many people, especially those with anxiety, are interested in learning how to overcome emotional hunger. If not treated properly, this condition can lead to various health problems for the sufferer.
By the term “emotional hunger,” we refer to eating to calm the nerves. It is different from physiological hunger: when you eat to satisfy a basic need and allow the body to function properly.
Eating is an enjoyable activity, but it is not the ideal way to solve emotional problems. In this sense, consuming unhealthy food between meals is a sure ticket to becoming overweight. Also, it represents an immediate relief from anxiety but does not solve the situation that generates it.
Emotional hunger or physiological hunger?
It is not always easy to distinguish when the urge to eat comes from emotional hunger, but many symptoms help clarify doubts. First of all, emotional hunger appears when the person is going through a stressful situation. It does not occur at certain times of the day like physiological hunger but can be experienced at any time.
Another way of knowing that we are facing emotional hunger is the preference for sweet or greasy foods. On the contrary, when someone is physiologically hungry, they look for food or nutrients to satisfy it.
Finally, the emotions that occur before and after eating are different. According to a study published by the journal Act of Psychological Research, emotional hunger is related to unpleasant emotions such as sadness, a feeling of emptiness, or hopelessness. For its part, physiological hunger is not associated with any emotion.
How to overcome emotional hunger
Once it is clear when you are going through an episode of emotional hunger, the next step is to limit and not succumb to the urge to eat unhealthy foods. Next, we will see how it can achieve.
1. Put any tempting food out of reach
It is effortless to give in to emotional hunger if there are availability and accessibility of the foods that cause that desire. On the contrary, if consuming these foods means that the person has to make an effort to obtain them, they are less likely to be consumed.
The most drastic solution is to nip it in the bud and not buy any processed foods, but you don’t have to go to those extremes to overcome emotional hunger. Put them out of reach or sight, such as on a high shelf.
2. Calm the stress with other more suitable alternatives
The origin of emotional hunger is stress in the face of an event or a situation of uncertainty. This means that if you attack the source of hunger directly, you will, in all likelihood, stop feeling the urge to eat.
There are many ways to calm anxiety that also provide other benefits to the person. For example, a recent study has shown that getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day is an effective way to combat stress.
Sport and active life are the best way to overcome emotional hunger. But not only that, but it provides many other benefits that positively influence physical and mental well-being.
3. Establish a healthy relationship with food
As mentioned in the previous section, emotional hunger is a direct consequence of stress. However, the relationship is not as simple as it seems, since in many cases, what generates stress are the negative emotions and thoughts experienced after eating. In other words, the cause-effect relationship becomes a vicious circle that is more difficult to break.
It is essential to relativize and not give more importance than negative thoughts and emotions in these cases. It is okay to eat “junk food” sporadically. Torturing or blaming yourself for it is toxic and harmful behavior for yourself, which only fuels stress.
Overcome hunger and live happier
We all like to enjoy good food, and there is nothing wrong with it. Good nutrition is a fundamental pillar of health. It must be cared for and controlled to maintain quality of life.
Emotional hunger is a common phenomenon when you are going through a period of stress. It is not something to be ashamed of, but be brave to acknowledge it and make an effort to overcome it. After all, “what you eat is raised.