All of Nutrition

Emotional Eating

Would you call yourself an emotional eater? Eating when you’re feeling an emotion rather than physical hunger? Sometimes the emotions that hit you in your core can make it very, very difficult to detect physical hunger vs. an emotion. Identifying feelings other than hunger takes practice. Lots and lots of practice. This post is going to help you with that.

Distinguishing emotional hunger from physical hunger can be tricky because emotional hunger can totally feel physical. Totally. You’re normal. Let’s start your practice with the following exercise:

Each time you reach for something to eat, go to the fridge, the pantry, the cupboard, leave your desk, walk to the kitchen, go to the employee break room, reach in your desk drawer, ask yourself this question:  “What am I feeling right now?

You need to figure out what’s making you seek food. Sure, it might be hunger, but you might also recognize that you are reaching for food in the absence of physical hunger. If so, why? Keep in mind that if you are willing to explore and sit with the results you might notice that you are discovering emotions that you didn’t know were there.

You might also notice that some of the emotions that you knew were there are feeling more intense now that you are not covering them up with food. This is normal. And it can also be scary.

A lot of people who enter this process aren’t even aware that they are eating when an uncomfortable feeling comes up. They don’t know why they’re eating. That’s called mindless eating. Asking yourself WHY you are eating is designed to increase your awareness. There are SO many feelings to feel and explore. It can be overwhelming.

Here are some questions that may help you practice identifying and recognizing your physical hunger:

  • What are your physical signs of hunger?
  • When is the last time you ate?
  • Where are you on the hunger scale?
  • What are you wanting/feeling if it is not hunger?
  • What would happen if you sat with this feeling?
  • How long can you tolerate this feeling?
  • Do you understand this feeling?

Sometimes you feel an ache or emptiness in your heart or soul due to a recent loss or ongoing unmet emotional and/or spiritual need. It’s easy to mistake this for physical need and try to fill the void with food. Or you use food to “stuff” your feelings deeper so that you don’t feel them quite as painfully. There is definitely a physical discomfort in the gut, but it is a different sensation from stomach hunger.

Here are some questions that may help you practice exploring the emotions/feelings that you might be mistaking as physical hunger:

  • Where is the desire to eat coming from?
  • What were you feeling before you were prompted to eat?
  • What is going on with you right now?
  • What is the most important thing going on in your life currently?
  • What scares you the most about this feeling?
  • What do you really want?
  • What, other than food, would satisfy your emotional need?

If you want to explore why you want to eat when you’re not physically hungry, it’s a good idea to record/journal/text how you feel before, during and after eating. If you find that you’re resistant to journaling before you eat (many people are) begin by journaling after every eating experience. Ask yourself why you just ate __________.

You can take this practice one step further by tracking things like energy, mood, mental clarity and digestive happiness (how the food feels in your stomach and body). The more data and information you gather surrounding the eating experience, the more you understand your motives for eating. By doing this you’re one step closer to identifying the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger. Want more specific help? Book an appointment with us – in our office or virtually!!!