Emotional hunger: what is it and what can be done to fight it

Someone once told me that there would always be obese people, and even though he mentioned it in a work context, the reality is that this sentence, in addition to being true, is no longer true. is not at all encouraging.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Survey (ENSANUT), in 2016, 73% of the adult population in Mexico was already overweight or obese; second in the world behind the United States, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

We know that the problem lies in the type of food we eat, the frequency and the quantities. However, there is one factor that interferes in one way or another with the art of good food, as it is not always eaten to really feel hungry, sometimes it is made to cover up certain emotions. The latter is known as emotional hunger or emotional eating..

    Difference between physiological hunger and emotional hunger

    Physical or physiological hunger, once it appears, tends to increase gradually and can satisfy any type of food, therefore you can choose healthy food without any problem. Once you eat, you don’t need it anymore because you get the feeling of fullness.

    On the contrary, emotional hunger suddenly presents with a desire to eat a specific food, Especially unhealthy foods; but, once you manage to satisfy the whim, that apparent “hunger” doesn’t go away, because you want to keep eating.

    The relationship between hunger and emotions

    From an early age, consciously or unconsciously, we associate food with emotions. For example, the feeling of security of a baby when he takes his milk in the arms of the father or the mother; rewards with sweets or unhealthy foods for success, be it good behavior or high marks. There is even a popular phrase that says: “pain with bread is less”, so we learn that sadness, abandonment, resentment, among others, are reduced with food.

    In situations of sadness or happiness, food can trigger reactions in the brain that are pleasurable. An example of this is chocolates, which trigger a compound called phenylethylamine, which generates a state of well-being; In addition, chocolate releases endorphins and serotonin, so it is considered a natural antidepressant.

    Fill the void

    As mentioned above, it is not a real feeling of hunger, but the unconscious desire to fill a void, which is not in your stomach … it is emotional discomfort. In this case, the person he cannot take charge of this discomfortAs he sometimes ignores it, he confuses this feeling with hunger and tries to compensate for it by eating.

    On the other hand, there are times when the person manages to be aware of these specific emotions, but has not made the decision to deal with them, so this dissatisfaction continues.

    Maybe if the person wonders about this hunger he feels, he might come to the conclusion that maybe it is hunger for affection, in need of a hug; maybe the fear of being abandoned, of feeling alone, of being rejected; or simply going through a period of great worry or anxiety. No matter how hard you try, it is something that food can never satiate and as a result it contributes to weight gain and causes feelings of guilt.

      How emotional hunger is satiated

      The first step may be to realize how you are feeling or thinking about this moment when you cannot be satisfied; you may be going through a situation in your life that generates worry, sadness, stress, happiness. Name what you are feeling, find out what thoughts are invading your mind and what your needs are right now.

      Go to the nutritionist. When it comes to food, you need to know which servings are right for youIn addition to keeping track of the hours you need to eat. This way you will be able to more easily identify when emotions start to merge with hunger.

      Exercise. This will allow you, in addition to improving your health, release negative emotions such as stress and anxiety. It also works as a natural antidepressant as it releases mood-enhancing endorphins and serotonin. Seek help in resolving this emotional distress. You can start by sharing it with someone you trust; if the problem persists, do not hesitate to go to the psychologist, who will provide you with the necessary assistance.

      The most important thing in this business is to pay attention to any emotional needs you may have. Otherwise, you are feeding your body excessive food intake which ends up being harmful to your health. Listen to your body and respond to its needs. Give your emotional zone the importance it requires, so that you find the well-being that you deserve.

      Author: Psic. Angel Ximenez.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Notimex (2018). Obesity in Mexico Biggest Problem: FAO. Excelsior.
      • OMENT (2017). Mexican Observatory of Noncommunicable Diseases. Retrieved November 11, 2018, from the Mexican Observatory for Noncommunicable Diseases.

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