Nutrition – Are you truly hungry?

Do you notice that when the temperature drops you feel hungrier than usual?

If so, you are not alone. Recently, I’ve had many clients complaining of hunger and this seems to happen every winter.

If the body is working hard to stay warm it makes sense that your appetite may increase. There is also something very appealing about the thought of eating warm, hearty food on a cold day.

If you are truly hungry then you may need to increase your meal size, however it is important to realise the difference between true hunger and emotional hunger. It is emotional hunger that can make things messy. If you find yourself standing in the kitchen thinking to yourself ‘what do I feel like…’ there’s a good chance you want to eat to satisfy a feeling, rather than because you are truly hungry.

Hunger is a subject that gets discussed regularly in my office. Whether the goal is improved health, energy or weight loss, extra food eaten when someone is not really hungry can be a problem, especially if it is happening on a regular basis.

So, how can you tell the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger?
Physical hunger is gradual, and it is based in the stomach. You may start to notice a rumbling tummy, which gives steadily progressive clues that it is time to eat.  True hunger will be satisfied with a range of different foods and the sensations of hunger will stop when you are full. When a person is truly hungry they are more likely to be aware of what they are eating and will be more conscious of the choices they are making. Most people should be able to last at least three to four hours between meals before they start to feel hungry again.

Emotional hunger is quite different. It can come on very quickly – you may not be thinking about food and then suddenly you feel absolutely starving. It usually involves cravings for a specific food. If you are craving chocolate or pizza you will be thinking about that specific thing and nothing else will satisfy that need.

Unlike true hunger, emotional hunger is often not satisfied once you feel full. If someone is eating out of an emotional, rather than a physical need, they don’t have an accurate gauge of when to stop and some may even continue eating until they feel ill.

Humans are emotional beings and feelings of boredom, sadness, loneliness or stress can be huge triggers for emotional eating. We also live in a world filled with lots of delicious, convenient fast foods and multiple opportunities to overeat.

It is perfectly normal to find yourself eating due to reasons other than true hunger occasionally. But, if you are struggling with your weight or health then becoming more in tune with the differences between emotional hunger and physical hunger and only eating when you are truly hungry will be a huge step in helping you achieve your goal.