How to recognize emotional hunger

One of the reasons we tend to overeat is our mind tells us we should eat, even when we are not hungry.

Many times people turn to food to deal with certain emotions, whether it’s sadness, anger, happiness or loneliness.

emotional eating

Other times we eat because we are stressed or bored.
bored eatingIf eating when you are not hungry becomes a habit, then with time you probably will start to gain a little weight.

There are many steps to help curb emotional eating, and one of those steps is recognizing physical versus emotional hunger.

If you suddenly feel the need to eat, oftentimes it is out of emotional hunger instead of physical hunger.

Physical hunger tends to come on gradually, and you can postpone eating while for a while with physical hunger.  But with emotional hunger, you feel the need to eat at that very moment and it’s an all of a sudden urge.  Usually this happens when an overly negative emotion creeps up, such as hearing bad news or thinking of an upcoming stressful situation.

Specific cravings are also usually emotional hunger rather than physical hunger.  And these cravings are usually not for health food!  Chocolate, chips, ice cream, pizza – all of these sudden food cravings are generally due to emotional hunger.  And your hunger for these foods does not go away if you eat something else, like an apple.

True physical hunger can be cured with any food.  With physical hunger, you can eat an apple and feel full and satisfied!

Emotional hunger also tends to lead people to eat more than they normally would.  When you are full, are you still taking bites of your food?  This is due to emotional eating.  When you are eating for physical hunger, you will stop eating when you are full.

And one of the truest signs of emotional hunger is the feeling of guilt after you eat.  If you feel bad about yourself after you eat, then you most likely ate for emotional hunger reasons instead of physical hunger.

After eating with physical hunger, you should feel happy and satisfied, not guilty for your actions!


One of the best ways to figure out if you are physical versus emotionally hungry is the apple test.  (If you don’t like apples, substitute another healthy food here).

When you have the desire to eat, ask yourself if you are willing to eat an apple.  If the answer is yes, then you are usually feeling physical hunger.  If the answer is no, you’d rather eat something else, then your hunger is most likely emotional.


With emotional hunger, distractions are your best defense.  Do something to take your mind off of food – whether it’s exercising, working, reading or talking with a friend.  Any activity that will preoccupy you until your craving to eat goes away will do.

With physical hunger, go ahead and eat.  Just remember the 5 steps of mindful eating to help you avoid overeating.  To review these steps, see last Wednesday’s blog post.


Only a few more days left to join the Free post-Halloween 3 day clean eating challenge!  Send me a message through the Contact Me link to sign up.

Thank you to those who have already signed up!  I will be sending out the guidelines, meal plan and accountability group information on Friday, Halloween night – so be on the lookout for your trick or treat surprise from me!



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