Regular readers of Weight Loss Ladder will know that it isn’t only lack of food that makes you hungry! Your emotions can cause hunger too.
I’ve listed here the top 10 emotions that make you hungry. However, when I say ‘you’ I refer to a plural you. We’re all different, and the feelings that make us feel like a snack will be different for each of us. Some of us may not suffer from emotional hunger at all, but most people do to a certain extent. Here we go:
Boredom is a very common cause of hunger. Do you ever find yourself standing in front of an open fridge, wondering what to eat? I bet you’re bored! Go and do something else to occupy yourself. Exercise is ideal!
Need a hug? Well, if you turn to food when you’re feeling down it can feel like you’re giving yourself a hug from inside. You feel sadness in your torso, around your heart, and the act of eating, filling your tummy, helps to soothe the pain you feel in a similar place. If you can’t do anything about why you’re feeling sad, soothe yourself in other ways than eating. How about a candlelit bath, some retail therapy or simply chatting with loved ones.
Stress is a major cause of snacking. If you’re in a stressful job you may find yourself grazing on crisps, chocolate or biscuits barely without noticing it. Or maybe looking after your children frays your nerves, and you find yourself eating their leftovers at teatime! Notice when you’re feeling anxiety, and take a break if you can. A short walk can do the trick. Or snack on an apple or carrot sticks instead.
Anger can be a big cause of overeating, and resentment is a good example of a type of anger which you can try to block with food. I call it anger-stuffing. We tend to feel resentment deep down inside ourselves. It is an unpleasant emotion, and to avoid it we can literally stuff it back down with food. Tackle the cause of your resentment if you can. Your anger is telling you something is wrong in your life - listen to it.
A feeling of inner emptiness can be eased by eating. This feeling could be from a lack of fulfilment in life, or perhaps from a deeper place such as not knowing or loving who you really are. If you’ve lost your way in life go out and find it! If the feeling of emptiness is more fundamental than that then you may benefit from some therapy to explore this further. In the meantime emptiness has an enemy – gratitude. Be thankful for what you do have.
Everyone will feel disappointed from time to time. We won’t always get what we hoped for. That’s life. However, what do we do about it? Adjust? Accept? Try again? Or award ourselves a consolation prize – like food? It can be very easy when faced with a disappointment to turn to something that won’t let us down – a chocolate bar, for example. If you’re feeling disappointed, try again, or try something different. Regain your hope!
Even good emotions can cause hunger! If you’ve had some good news, or experienced something wonderful, you may feel like eating! This can be especially true if you have happy memories of eating as a young child. A connection created in your formative years lives with you still as an adult. Try to enjoy feeling happy for its own sake. Eating too much may make you unhappy in the long run.
Related to anger and disappointment, frustration is your response to opposition. When you can’t get what you want, when you are blocked from realising your hopes, you can feel frustration. The feeling of frustration is like a feeling of being trapped. It isn’t a good feeling, and like anger-stuffing we can try to block it with food.
This extreme form of anger can lead to compulsive eating, almost aggressive eating, literally stuffing the self-hatred back down. Sometimes the self-hatred can be hard to spot, because people who hate themselves may have constructed a false outer self they can live with. It is often linked to strong feelings of shame and anger and needs professional help to recover from.
This exultant emotion of extreme joy can need an outlet. That outlet is often alcohol! Not strictly eating I know, but alcohol contains a lot of calories. Do something else to celebrate - dance, exercise or chat with friends! Naturally come down from your natural high, don’t replace it with another one!
There are many other emotions that make you hungry – these are just 10 of the most common ones. If you think you may be prone to emotional eating why not take the Weight Loss Ladder emotional eating quiz.
By David Hart
(c) Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.
What emotions make you hungry? Please comment below: