You rush to the kitchen and start raiding the cupboards and fridge in search of something ‘nice’ to eat. All of a sudden a family member unexpectedly walks in and asks ‘Are you OK?’. ‘I’m starving! You mumble back with an already full mouth whilst quickly putting something together.
It sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
There is no doubt that you should take pleasure in eating but if you want to eat to live NOT live to eat you must ask yourself an important question- AM I ACTUALLY HUNGRY?
Sounds easy. The reality is if you overeat you might not know the answer to this question. The reason for this is that you don’t listen to your body’s signals. You have ignored your body’s signals for so long that you no longer recognise when you are truly hungry. So what can you do? First of all learn the difference between the real physical hunger and the emotional hunger.
Emotional hunger is a desperate craving for food. You experience emotional hunger when you are trying to escape uncomfortable feelings. If you trace it back you’ll discover that just before the feeling of the ‘hunger’ you were having some sort of argument in your head.
Emotional hunger is SUDDEN and URGENT. It’s strong and demands food right away. Emotional hunger cannot be satisfied with food. You might feel a bit better while eating but after you finish you’ll want more or crave something different. It just doesn’t go away because this type of hunger doesn’t crave food. It craves good feelings!
Physical hunger is GRADUAL and PATIENT. When you first noticed you are REALLY hungry you might feel gentle rumbling in your stomach. If you ignore the feeling, the hunger will grow, the rumbling become stronger or louder. If you keep ignoring it you might feel light headed , tired or even angry. The physical hunger can be satisfied with food.
So, if you eat all day but can’t get satisfaction you are looking for- you are not hungry in a first place! In this situation you don’t need food, you just need to feel good.
When you recognise emotional hunger take time to sit down and ask yourself ‘ How am I feeling?’. Take few deep breaths, scan your body for any tension and release it every time you exhale. Ask yourself ‘What is happening right now? Am I anxious/ sad/ angry?
Accept your feelings
Whatever feelings you are experiencing it is important to make yourself aware of it and accept it. The quicker you do it the sooner the feeling will go away. If you feel sad say out loud: ‘I feel sad. It’s OK to feel sad. I accept my sadness’. Let yourself experience the sadness. You might want to have a little cry. Say out loud: ‘I love myself even when I’m sad. I look after myself when I’m sad.’ When you feel ready – take an action to make yourself feel better. Do something that is not eating or drinking that will cheer you up, for example you can watch your favourite show or rearrange your bedroom, put the candles on and listen to relaxing music. Whatever works for you! With time you will get to know yourself better and you will know what makes you happy and brings feelings of satisfaction.
Being able to recognise which type of hunger you are experiencing will help you realise that most of the time when you feel like you need to eat you are not hungry! You might be bored, need a hug or just a change of activity. Practise spotting your emotional hunger and responding to your emotional needs and you will find easier to recognise when you are physically hungry.