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Physical Hunger VS Emotional Hunger - How to Know the Difference

emotional eating fixed mindset hunger knowledge Jun 06, 2021

Physical Hunger VS Emotional Hunger - How to Know the Difference

Everyone has likely experienced both physical and emotional hunger before but sometimes we start to lose insight into what we are experiencing.

Coach Brooke talked about this a bit on Instagram, so we wanted to dive in a bit deeper for you here.

So what is the difference between them, how do you recognize them, and what do you do about them?

What’s the Difference Between the Two?

It can be hard to listen to our bodies sometimes — understanding the main differences between these two types of hunger is what is going to be your saving grace and allow you to think back on them when you think you “might” be feeling hungry! 

Physical Hunger 

Physical hunger (true hunger) is the sensation that makes you want to eat. This occurs when your body signals your brain that your stomach is empty.

Signs of physical hunger include: 

  • Stomach grumbling 
  • Headache 
  • Weakness
  • Shakiness
  • Low energy 
  • Mood changes 

Physical hunger can be hard to recognize with certain medical conditions and their medications and chronic dieting.

Emotional Hunger

Emotional Hunger (response hunger) is the desire for food outside of the physical need to eat. 

This can stem from a variety of factors including; 

  • Stress 
  • Boredom 
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • And many other feelings

Emotional eating is a common response to stress and other emotions, however, we don’t want it to be the only coping mechanism! 

How to Manage Them?

So what do you do if you struggle with determining if your hunger is true hunger or an emotional response?

The Steps:

Step 1: Awareness.

The goal is to recognize your hunger prior to emotional eating. You cannot address a problem if you are not aware of it. 

Step 2: Stop and reflect.

Have you eaten enough today? When was the last time you ate? Maybe you do really need to eat.

If you have eaten enough, what else are you feeling? Is there something else going on that is causing stress/anxiety/boredom? This is when alternative coping mechanisms come in handy!

Step 3: Execute.

What did you determine? Do you really need a snack, or do you really need a long walk or 5 minutes to journal? Take the time to respond accordingly! If you haven’t already, talk to your coach about your current mechanisms for coping with stress and see if they can help you come up with some new methods!


6 Coping Mechanisms to Help Soothe Yourself Without Food 

1. Give yourself a massage

Rub a little bit of lotion on your feet or start to rub your temples, you will notice that the stress subsides — and with it your craving or emotional hunger. 

2. Have a cup of tea 

We ALL know that a cup of tea is like a hug for your insides. Enough said. 

3. Chew gum 

Have a pack of sugar-free gum handy and start chewing away! Studies show that chewing gum switches your brain to a relaxed but alert state — thus giving you a chance to calm down and reflect

4. Drink water 

Sometimes all we need is a BIG BEAUTIFUL GLASS OF WATER! 

5. Go for a walk 

Get some air and step away from a situation that is causing you to emotionally eat, YES the problem or situation might still be there BUT you have had a chance to calm down and are in control of your emotional eating!

6.Call a friend and have a b*tch fit! 

Nothing beats calling up your BFF and laying it all out there! 

So What Does it all Mean?

I cannot stress this enough... Hunger is NOT a bad thing. Your hunger cues are designed to keep you alive and fully functioning the way you are meant to be — we just need to differentiate between TRUE hunger and RESPONSE hunger.

If you are struggling with emotional eating, it might be in your best interest to try some of the coping mechanisms above and speak with your fitness coach to see what they have to say. Food is what we need — we just can't let it rule every aspect of our lives! 


Check out the original Instagram post HERE.


Connect with us!

Email: [email protected]

IG: @coachbrooke.rdn @kjocoaching

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