Many people overeat for emotional reasons. Without doing some serious reflection it is difficult to pinpoint whether our food choices come from an emotional need or a physical need.
Here are eight warning signs that your eating may be driven by hidden emotions.
- Your hunger comes on suddenly.
Physical hunger comes on slowly. Hunger from emotional eating often comes on quickly and suddenly.
- You crave specific foods – generally not carrot sticks or steamed broccoli.
Cravings for specific, usually unhealthy foods is a sign of emotional eating. Often people like the rush they get from satisfying their cravings. That rush is fulfilling emotional hunger.
- Your hunger feels urgent.
You need a particular food right away and you’re willing to walk out of your way, or get in your car late at night, or raid your kid’s Halloween candy to get it. Physical hunger, unless you haven’t eaten for a very long time, is usually pretty patient. It will wait for food. Emotional hunger demands to be satisfied immediately.
- Your hunger is often paired with an upsetting emotion.
If you backtrack a few hours or a few days you’ll usually find an upsetting event and feeling that triggered the urge. Hunger that’s connected to an upsetting emotion or situation is definitely emotional hunger. Physical hunger is not typically triggered by emotions.
- Your eating habits involve unconscious eating.
All of a sudden you’re eating ice-cream and you find the whole container is gone. When you’re eating for physical reasons, you are usually mindful of what you’re doing. If you catch yourself eating "just because," then it’s likely you’re eating for emotional reasons.
- You don’t stop eating in response to being full.
You keep wanting more of the taste of the food. Physical hunger doesn’t need to be stuffed in order to be satisfied. Emotional hunger on the other hand often demands more and more food to feel satisfied.
- Your hunger isn’t located in belly.
You crave the taste of a certain food in you mouth or can’t stop thinking of a certain food. Feeling hungry in this way is usually a sign of emotional hunger. Physical hunger is happy to get what it can, while emotional hunger usually focuses on specific tastes and textures.
- After you satisfy my hunger, you are often filled with a sense of regret or guilt.
Feeding your body what it needs is not something to feel guilty about. If you feel guilty after you eat, it’s likely because part of you knows you’re not eating just to satisfy physical hunger.