Is it emotional hunger or actual hunger? 7 ways to tell the difference

Episode 62: 
Is it Emotional Hunger or
Actual Hunger?
7 ways to tell the difference
emotional eating, overeating, actual hunger, woman in front of fridge eating donut

Full transcription available at the bottom of this post

We can't fix what we don't notice

I have found that lot's of women don't like the term emotional eating, EVEN THOUGH when I use it, you know exactly what I'm talking about!  We don't want to really consider the idea that we have a problem with emotional eating because we have a BELIEF  that dealing with emotional eating is going to take more work than counting points or going keto.  But the truth is that's TOTALLY backwards thinking!  Dealing with our eating behaviors and the emotions and thoughts that underlie them will not only transform our weight and our health, but the entire LIFE that we create.  

But the old adage is true - you can't fix what you don't notice.  If we don't recognize our emotional eating behaviors, we will never take the steps to deal with and overcome them.  In this episode I'm going to give you 7 ways to determine if you're eating for emotions or eating for actual hunger.  I want you to get REALLY honest with yourself and recognize how many of those 7 patterns have been true for you.  

If you find that you've been emotionally eating more often than you thought, don't despair, or go down the shame and guilt spiral.  Trust me, you're in good company.  Instead, notice, learn, make different choices, listen to more podcast episodes, grab the free tools, and stay tuned because I'm working on a FREE emotional eating mini-course that I'll be dropping soon!!


PS. If anything in this episode resonated with you, then share the LOVE! Post a screenshot of this episode in your stories and tag me @tarafaulmann! And join the conversation in our FREE No Nonsense Wellness Community!

emotional eating, actual hunger, overeating, woman in front of fridge eating donut

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Show Notes: 

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Full Transcript: 

Welcome back, my friends to the no nonsense wellness Podcast. I'm so happy you're here. We're going to talk today about emotional and stress eating. Now we talk about this a lot on this podcast. And there's a reason for it because we keep doing it. This is something that most of us are constantly working on overcoming. But emotional and stress eating are so hard to overcome often because we don't recognize that we're even doing it until we've already done it. In this episode, I want to give you seven ways to tell between emotional eating and physical hunger. Am I emotionally hungry or physically hungry? So if you're listening to this, while you're taking a walk, which I know a lot of you do, you're gonna want to bookmark this episode, come back, listen to it again, when you can write this stuff down, because you're definitely going to want to save this for later to reference. Okay, let's go!

Welcome back to the no nonsense wellness podcast, the place for women who are trying to do all the things and stay healthy, sane and actually enjoy life in the process. Hey, I'm Tara, a trained therapist, a life coach, a nutrition coach and a fitness instructor. And I'm on a mission to help you take back control of your mind, health and life. Each week, I'll be cutting through the nonsense and getting real with you. I'll bring you the insight and information you need to take control of your weight and health, find food freedom, and finally break free from the thoughts that are sabotaging you and holding you back. You, my friend, are powerful, and the world needs you to start showing up in a bigger way. It's time to get unstuck and start moving forward. So let's pop in those earbuds, tie up those shoes, let's walk and talk.

Here's the deal. After years of dieting, most of us are so disconnected from what our body actually needs. I mean, think about it. For years and years, we have been relying on meal plans, diet, eat this, don't eat that, eat now not then, here's how much but only now, right? There's all these prescriptions for the what and the how and the when of what we're eating, that we have lost the ability to actually listen to what our body needs. Now, I consciously, I have no idea what my body needs. That's literally its job, right? That's all it does is figure out what it needs and tells me that but if I have lost the ability to listen to that, I'm going to be lost. And that's why so often we rely on diets, we go from one diet to the next diet to the next diet, because we're looking for the thing to tell us what to do that will finally work. But what we missed the whole time, is that that's our body's job. Our body is the thing that will tell us what it needs so that it can do the job it's supposed to do. We have lost track of that, we have lost the ability to just listen to our bodies, we've become so disconnected. And then if you couple that disconnection with our propensity to deal with difficult emotions and stress by eating food, we have a total recipe for disaster, right? We are no longer paying attention to what our body actually needs. And then we're dealing with emotional problems by eating that situation is exactly what I want to teach you how to deal with here but also designed an entire program, the Healthy Mind Healthy Body program, in order to help you figure that situation out for yourself so that you no longer feel the need to eat your emotions. You no longer feel the need to turn to food. You no longer are questioning or wondering what should I eat? When should I eat it? How much should I eat? Your body is telling you all of those answers already and you will learn then how to listen to them. So today, I want to share with you seven signs that you are actually emotionally eating and not eating from physical hunger. So you're gonna want to write these down so that you can reference them later. But it's seven ways for you to decipher is this emotional hunger or physical hunger. Okay, let's get down to it. 

The first one is sudden versus gradual. So emotional hunger. So when I am feeling the need to eat purely because of emotions, whatever those are, stress, anxiety, sadness, overwhelm whatever it is, that hunger feels very sudden, emotional hunger feels very sad. In one minute, I'm not really thinking about food at all. And the next minute, I'm standing in front of the fridge or the pantry like dying for something, my hunger, the degree of hunger that I felt went from like zero to 10. On a scale of 10. True hunger, actual physical hunger is a lot more gradual. I'm not hungry, and then I'm a little hungry, and then I'm a little more hungry, and then I'm really hungry. Right?

It's way more gradual. So emotional hunger is sudden, real physical hunger is much more gradual. 

The second one is that when you feel emotionally hungry, you're feeding yourself because of emotions, you usually want some kind of specific food, you have a craving for something very specific, like maybe it's something salty, maybe it's something sweet. Whatever it is, doesn't matter. But it's very specific. If it's actual physical hunger, you're open to eating a lot of different things. You might stand in the fridge and be like, I'm hungry. What sounds good, this maybe sounds good. That maybe sound good. That maybe sounds good, you would go through several options in your head. So again, emotional hunger, if you're usually very hungry for something very specific. I need this right now. And actual physical hunger means you probably have some preferences for things that you like, but you're open to eating lots of different things. Lots of different things might sound good. 

The third difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger is that emotional hunger again, feels very urgent. Not only do I go from zero to 10, on the hunger scale really fast, but it seems like I also need it right now. Like I can't wait. It's so intense, right? It's like, I need this at this moment. I need it right now. And true hunger. True physical hunger is not so urgent. You could wait. So maybe I'm feeling hungry. I feel like I need to eat right now. But I could wait it out. If I had to, like think about you're commuting home from work. And emotional hunger feels like I need to go through that drive thru window right now and get some fries. True. physical hunger feels like, Yeah, I'm hungry. But I can wait 3045 minutes until I get home and make myself some food. Okay, do you see the difference? emotional hunger feels very urgent. I need it now. And true, physical hunger feels like I'm hungry. But I'll make it. I can wait until I get to the food. That's actually a good choice for me the food that I have chosen, the food that I've put on my plan, et cetera, et cetera. 

Okay, the fourth difference then is that emotional hunger is going to show up with an emotion.  That seems obvious, but we miss this a lot of times. So take a second and think about the situation that you're in. Was your boss just upset with you to do just argue with your spouse? Are you at an event that feels very stressful? What kind of mood are you in? This emotional hunger is going to happen? When you are in a situation that feels stressful or emotionally upsetting? So think about? Am I having any emotions right now? Associated with hunger? Or am I just hungry? Right, you really have to start to discern what's going on. So for example, for myself personally, a lot of times you talk about boredom, eating? Well, boredom, eating is not actually a thing, what you're actually doing is just avoiding something. And this is one thing that I do right? I will be avoiding a task that feels stressful or overwhelming to me. And so I will go stand in front of my pantry and look for something to nibble on. I'm not hungry. I'm just standing there avoiding something else. So you really have to start to tune in, what kind of emotions are associated with you with that hunger when you feel like you want to eat. In contrast, physical hunger is just occurring without emotions, you're just physically hungry in your body. You know, your body is hungry, you haven't eaten for the last, you know, three, four or five hours, you feel physical hunger symptoms, it's not that you are also having emotions going along with it. So you see the difference here, you really have to start tuning in to is there emotions associated with my sudden or with my sudden need for popcorn? Okay, so pay attention. 

The fifth difference is emotional eating usually involves that sort of mindless eating, okay, these things go very hand in hand. So not only am I sort of mindlessly reaching for that food without tuning into what's actually going on for me, I'm also then eating that food without paying attention to what's going on for me. So we talked about this a lot again, in the  healthy mind Healthy Body program that's kind of autopilot eating, I'm not paying attention. I look down and see half the carton of ice cream is gone. I looked down and think how did I finish that entire bag of popcorn? And then right? We're not even going to the place where all the guilt regret feelings and are associated with that. But just in the moment,

I am mindlessly grabbing things because I'm avoiding emotion. And then I'm also mindlessly eating the things. And often I eat too much, that's when the overeat and the binges usually happen. So contrast that again to actual hunger. When I'm actually hungry, physically hungry, I am aware of how much I'm eating. I'm aware of how my body is feeling while I'm eating it. And I am aware of the signs when my body says, Hey, you're done, you've had enough Thank you very much. Instead of just mindlessly eating an entire bag of popcorn, which if I'm paying attention, my body will say, Hey, we're done. That's enough. Can you drink some water, please. And then, right, I didn't make it through the whole bag. So not only emotional hunger and my mindlessly grabbing for stuff, but I'm also mindlessly eating this stuff. Okay? Really pay attention to that. 

The sixth thing for you to pay attention to is that, again, part of that Mindless Eating is that you are not stopping when you're full, because you're not paying attention. Emotional hunger is an avoidance technique. Eating because of emotions is an avoidance technique. So we are not going to stop doing that until we feel like our emotion has settled down. Okay. So when I'm eating mostly has nothing to do with whether or not I'm full, I will eat well past full. If I don't feel like my emotion has been sufficiently quenched. Does that make sense? Can you relate to this? Have you been here before, you might be full, but you are not paying attention to that signal at all. Because your mind is still in the emotional state. And you haven't quenched that yet. Now, the amazing thing about food is that it actually does calm down your mind that is one of the mechanisms of your body. It can't food calms you down because you digest better in a calm state. So it works. That's part of the problem with this whole situation. That's why we turn to food because it works to calm us. But when we're eating because of emotion, we often over-eat to the point where we feel now sick, physically sick, but often emotionally worse off because we realize what we've just done. 

So instead of that someone who's eating just because they're hungry, you are again, paying attention to what to the body signs that you're getting, while you're eating. And so you know what 50% Full feels like, you know what 80% Full feels like and you know, at 80%, that's a good time to stop and give it a break. If you're still hungry later. Cool, eat later. But if you're not cool, don't eat. That's what we're learning here. We have to learn how to tune in while we're eating. But we will not tune in on purpose if we are emotional eating. So we all really have to pay attention to not just when we're reaching for the food, but when we're putting the food in our mouth. Am I doing this associated with an emotion that I'm trying to avoid? Or am I doing this because I'm actually hungry, and I can pay attention to when it's time to stop. This is a skill that you can learn. I know a lot of you were like, I have been doing this for years. I don't know how to not do this. Right. I don't know how to stop doing that. I know I get it. I was there, we almost all of us, have been there. This is a skill that you can learn. But I promise you, any diet that you've ever been on is not teaching you this skill. That's why you keep having to go on diets. That's why because you're not learning this. That's what I'm here to teach you. 

So the seventh thing that you want to pay attention to, is how you feel afterwards. Now we've all been here

you are trying to avoid some kind of emotion, and you reach for the food, then you eat too much of the food. And now you feel physically ill but you also feel emotionally worse than when you started because the original emotion is still there. It didn't go away, you did not deal with it in any way. Now on top of that you have this shame spiral that you're going down because you just did it again, you just over eight again, you just blew your diet again. And now you feel guilt. And now you feel shame. And now you feel like you're never gonna get out of this and it's never gonna get better. And if at all, I might as well just keep eating because what's the point? I'm never going to change, right? I hope I pray that that is not what happens in your head but also I know that it is what's happening in your head. I know that because it's what has happened in my head before. 

Contrast that again with eating because you're physically hungry and there's no guilt or shame when you finished eating. Can you imagine just eating a meal and not having any guilt or shame or debt out or concern or worry, or any of those feelings associated with it? Can you imagine what it would feel like to just eat your food stop when you've had enough and then not think about food again until you were hungry again, like, that's what your life is supposed to be this constant obsession with being on a diet and only eat this and only eat now and don't eat during these hours, and, oh, you're fasting, so you can't eat until this time, or Oh, you're on keto. So you can't eat any of those foods that you actually really want to eat. Or, Oh, you got to stick to your points, and you already blew all your points today. Like, we are constantly so obsessed with all of these rules. That is not how you were designed to live. You were designed to live in tune with your body, your body has amazing mechanisms to tell you, Hey, you're hungry, hey, you've had enough. That's its job. But we mess up its job all the time. So if you're feeling all of those guilt, and shame, and regret feelings after you have had an emotional eating experience, number one, know that that's normal. Those two things go hand in hand, you're certainly not alone. But also No, it doesn't have to be like that. It doesn't have to feel like that you literally can just eat and be done and not think about it. 

You don't have positive emotions or negative emotions, you're just very neutral about food, you don't have to think about food all day, you don't have to be obsessed about what you're eating. And when you're eating it all day long. I'm telling you, there is so much freedom to be had around food. The thing is, your diet is never going to teach you how to do that. It's just simply not designed to. There are skills and tools and ways of thinking and ways of behaving and ways of managing emotion and ways of dealing with your thoughts that you have to learn if you want that freedom. And I want that freedom for you. So if you want that freedom that we should probably talk, because I hope that this podcast is helping you get there, I hope that the free tools that I offer are helping you get there. And if you need more, I have more, you can overcome emotional and stress eating you truly, truly can take it from someone who has, I am so much more aware now of when I have an urge. Now, when I say I'm free from emotional eating, I'm not going to tell you that I don't ever have a thought about it or an urge to emotionally eat I certainly do. But I am at the point now where I recognize that for what it is I recognize like, hey, Tara, you're standing in front of the pantry, not because you're hungry. But because you're avoiding something perhaps you should deal with that. I can talk myself through it and move on with my life. That's a skill that I have learned. And I want to teach that to you. So it's not that you'll never have the urge to emotionally eat again or the urge to stress eat again. It's that you don't do it because you're aware of it. And you have the tools and the knowledge and the understanding and you've done the work to overcome the triggers for that. Does that make sense? 

I hope this was really helpful. Again, if you were on a walk while you were listening, come back and listen to it. Take the notes about the seven differences between emotional hunger and true hunger. If this was helpful to you, share it with a friend, send it to someone that you care about. Share it in your stories on Instagram or Facebook, send me a DM and tell me what you thought. Send me some questions posted in our community group. All of those things are always linked on every episode of this show in the show notes so hop on over there and let's talk about it. Okay, until we talk again, my friends

be well. 

Hey, friends, thanks so much for being here. If you found value in today's episode, will you do me a favor and head over to iTunes? Find the no nonsense wellness podcast and subscribe and leave me a review. It would mean the world to me and help other people find the show. And I'd love to connect with you more. So find me on Instagram. I'm @tarafaulmann. Take a screenshot of this episode and share it in your stories and tag me. I'll see you over there.

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