Hungry? Is it Physical Hunger or Emotional Hunger?

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It’s 8:30 p.m. and you’re up watching your favorite t.v. show. During the commercial break, you decide to flip it to Food Network and see Guy Fieri trying a delicious malted milkshake on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Hungry yet? Or maybe you keep the commercials on and see that DQ Grill and Chill has a promotion for buy one blizzard, get one free; magically, you are on the move to find something sweet in your fridge or pantry….or maybe even looking for your car keys to make a run through the drive through for a dipped cone. Does any of this sound familiar?  Or maybe you’re just really hungry for something sweet and savory after a rough day at work or an argument with a friend over the phone. Can you relate to any of these scenarios? I most definitely can and can also admit that I’ve given in to a lot of them as well. With a lot of the clientele I see, an important topic of discussion is helping people figure out when they’re truly hungry and using intuitive eating as a way to eat sensibly throughout the day.

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Sometimes we may eat out of boredom and maybe just because someone suggested to go eat because it was something to do. I’ve worked with people in the past that use food for comfort— especially knowing that they can count on that pint of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream to taste exactly like it did the last time they bought it without the emotional baggage of the boyfriend that made them mad a few hours before 🙂 If you’ve ever wondered if you’re walking the line between physical hunger and emotional hunger, I’ve posted a graphic below to help you decipher between “symptoms”:

8 Traits of Emotional HungerThe information above can be really helpful in trying to decipher between physical and emotional hunger. Sometimes people tell me they never really feel hungry at all, or at least not until the end of the day. Did you know that eating more frequently throughout the day can actually help that sensation of hungry come back? Trust me, this is a good thing. If we’re the type of person on the go and rarely set aside time for meals or snacks, our body will start to think, “well buddy, if you’re not even going to do something about this hunger then I’m not even going to give you that hunger feeling anymore”. Now don’t get me wrong, just because that hunger feeling has gone away does NOT mean your body isn’t in need of those calories. But, if we start to change our habits and eat sensible meals and snacks every 3-4 hours, our metabolism starts to “wake up” and provide us those natural feelings of hunger that can help us achieve intuitive eating.

To complement some of the things I shared in finding an appropriate vending machine snack to address your hunger needs in a bind, I’ve listed some key things below to help with the hungry (or perhaps hangry) battle:

1. Take Time with Your Meals – Be sure to take at least 15-20 minutes when you eat if you’ve got the time. It takes about this length of time for your brain and stomach to communicate chemically and actually give you that sensation of fullness. Often times though, we end up eating so quickly that within the first five minutes of eating we’ve already eaten the volume of food it would take for our stomach to be full. But since it’s only been five minutes and there’s still more food left to be had on your plate or at the table, you may keep eating until you reach that level of “over full” about 30 minutes later. Think of that overly full feeling that makes you want (or need) to unbutton your blue jeans and put on some sweat pants, or in my case, take off my spanx 🙂 Ways you can extend your meal time include putting the fork down in between every bite of food (i.e. don’t have bite #4 of mashed potatoes hovering by your mouth ready to go before you even completely swallowed bite #1), or taking sips of water or other low calorie beverage in between bites of food as well.

2. Make Sure You’re Staying Well Hydrated- Feeling hungry pretty soon after already having your meal or snack? That rumble in your tummy might actually be your body telling you that you’re thirsty. Before getting to the point of dehydration and having a parched mouth or dry throat, your body may give the sensation of hunger to prompt you to drink more water. Take home point: if you feel “hungry” pretty soon after already eating your meal or snack not too long ago, have a glass of water and then reassess the hunger that you’re feeling. If you’re still hungry after rehydrating, you may have truly not eaten enough at your previous meal or snack.

3. Avoid Going Long Periods of Time Between Meals and Snacks- Just like a burning fireplace, our metabolism likes to be fed every few hours to continue to burn. This also includes breakfast which could be considered the “lighter fluid” that jump starts your fire /metabolism for the day. Having breakfast within 30 mins-1 hr after rising can help literally ‘break the fast’ that your body was experiencing while sleeping. Only eating 1 or 2 times a day puts our body in survival mode, training it to hold on to any calorie we give it for dear life. Also, if you’re eating small mini meals/snacks throughout the day, this keeps you from being overly hungry at your next meal. One other helpful tip, especially if you’re going out to eat: have a snack 30 mins-1hr prior to going out to eat if you know you’ll be ravenously hungry by the time you go out to eat. Having a small snack such as an apple or peanut butter crackers can help curb your appetite enough to prevent you from gorging on a whole basket of chips and salsa (or bread and butter) before your entree gets in front of you.

As a last thought, I do want to acknowledge that there are foods out there that have been created just for pure pleasure….which is great! We most definitely eat to nourish our bodies but we also eat for pleasure too. Finding a balance between addressing your body’s nutritional needs and incorporating your favorite “pleasure” foods is all part of eating a balanced healthy diet. Using intuitive eating and listening to your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues can help decipher between physical hunger and emotional hunger 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Hungry? Is it Physical Hunger or Emotional Hunger?

  1. I blame a lot of my snacking on the Food Network. Love the slogan, right? “Stay Hungry” Arg… I really want to know how the increase in food television is effecting our waist line in America! Great post!!

  2. Pingback: DAY 1 | maria

  3. Pingback: Emotional Eating: Ways Parents Can Step In » Emotional, Teach, Power, httpwwwyoutubecomwatchv=PxaTA3IVZbY, Intelligence, Susan, Weight-Loss, Albers, More, From » Diet

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