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Emotional vs. Physical Hunger

Posted Nov 06 2012 1:29pm
We all know that angry moment when all you want to do is stuff your face with that bucket of chocolate chip ice cream. Ice cream ranks first on the comfort food list, chocolate and cookies come next for women while pizzas and steaks are second for men. Nevertheless, we all agree that food does more than just fill the stomach; it’s highly influenced by our emotions and feelings.



Photo credit:
NCCU International Association
Emotional hunger can feel identical to physical hunger – unless, of course, you have learned to distinguish each type’s characteristics.


  • Emotional hunger is triggered/ paired with an upsetting emotion – whether you picked a fight with your partner or failed at school. Physical hunger on the other side is triggered out of physical need.
  • Emotional hunger is sudden and urgent - one minute you’re not hungry and the next you crave everything! You would want to eat right away to ease emotional pain with comfort food.
  • Emotional hunger is all in your head and mouth – you crave the sweet taste of chocolate in your mouth or how cheesy that pizza would be rather than just filling the rumbling feeling you have when physically hungry.
  •   Emotional hunger is selective – you crave specific foods, such as sweets, chocolate, pasta or fast foods like pizzas, burgers or fries and you wouldn't feel satisfied unless you consume that particular food. However, while your physical hunger is affected by your preferences, it is actually highly flexible to alternative options and ends when you feel full.
  • Emotional hunger is quick, absent-minded and automatic with you nibbling on a whole bag of biscuits without even noticing or stopping when full! Whereas when you are physically hungry, you would be aware of how you are eating, what you've eaten and if you are still hungry.
  • Last but not least, because emotional hunger involves bingeing on lots of empty calories, unhealthy sugars, salts and fats, it usually ends with a huge sense of guilt while if you are eating to fulfill hunger, you know it’s a necessity to provide your body with the right amount of fuel it needs.

  • Therefore, next time you’re upset or angry and you feel sudden hunger, stop for a split of a second and assess your hunger –
    Am I PHYSICALLY hungry or am I just feeding my EMOTIONS?

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