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Emotional Hunger: What Can Be Done to Combat It

One day someone told me that there were always going to be people with obesity, and although he mentioned it in a work context, the reality is that this phrase, besides being true, is not encouraging at all.

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One day someone told me that there were always going to be people with obesity, and although he mentioned it in a work context, the reality is that this phrase, besides being true, is not encouraging at all.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Survey (ENSANUT), in 2017 73% of the adult population in Mexico was already overweight or obese; occupying the second place in the world behind the United States, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

It is known that the problem falls on the kind of food we eat, the frequency and quantities. However, there is a factor that, in some way, interferes with the art of good eating, since it is not always eaten to really feel hungry, sometimes it is done to cover 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 be satisfied with any type of food, so that a healthy meal can be chosen without problems. Once you eat, you do not need more, since you experience the feeling of fullness.

On the contrary, emotional hunger occurs suddenly with desires to eat a specific food, especially unhealthy food; However, once you manage to satisfy the craving, that apparent “hunger” does not disappear, because you want to continue eating.

The relationship between hunger and emotions

From small, consciously or unconsciously, we associate food with emotions. For example, the feeling of security of a baby when drinking his milk in the arms of dad or mom; the rewards with sweets or unhealthy food for having achieved an achievement, be it good behavior or high grades. There is even a popular phrase that says: “the pains with bread are less”, so we learn that sadness, abandonment, resentment, among others, are reduced by eating.

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, which is why it is considered a natural antidepressant.

Filling 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 an emotional discomfort. In this case, the person can not take care of this discomfort, since sometimes he is not aware of it, so he confuses that feeling with hunger and tries to compensate by eating.

On the other hand, there are occasions in which the person manages to be aware of those specific emotions, but has not taken the decision to attend them, so that dissatisfaction continues.

Maybe if the person questioned about that hunger he feels, he could reach the conclusion that he may be hungry for love, need a hug; maybe fear of being abandoned, feeling lonely, being rejected; or simply to be going through a moment of great concern or anxiety. No matter how hard you try, it is something that food can never satisfy, and consequently contributes to weight gain and causes feelings of guilt.

How emotional hunger is satiated

The first step may be to realize what you are feeling or thinking at that moment when you can not be satisfied; Maybe you are going through a situation in your life that generates concern, sadness, stress, happiness. Give a name to what you are feeling, discover what thoughts invade your mind, and what need you have at that moment.

Go to the nutritionist. In food issues it is necessary to learn what are the right portions for you, in addition to keeping track of the hours you have to eat. That way, you can more easily identify when emotions begin to blend in with hunger.

Do exercise. This will allow you, in addition to improving your health, to download negative emotions such as stress and anxiety. It also works as a natural antidepressant, since it releases endorphins and serotonin that improve mood. Seek help to work that emotional discomfort. You can start by sharing it with someone you trust; If the problem persists, do not hesitate to go to the psychologist, who will give you the necessary help.

The main thing in this topic is to pay attention to the emotional needs that you can present. Otherwise you give your body an over-intake of food, which ends up being harmful to your health. Listen to your body and attend to its need. Give your emotional area the importance it requires, so that you find the well-being you deserve.

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