Source of information: Herbalife Magazine: TODAY, 198: 2019

We’ve all been there, felt crap and miserable and turned to our favourite treat foods for some comfort. We can add additional pounds to our weight that then sends us into a vicious cycle. But there are ways to break the habit.

Is hunger emotional or physical?

So, the answer is… depends! Look out for the following signs so that you can recognise which one is which.

  1. Comes on suddenly, often as a result of feeling anxious, stressed or upset. – Emotional. Gradual increasing hunger – physical. So wait a little longer before you make the decision to eat or not. You can make better choices then instead of rushing into it and feeling guilty afterwards.
  2. Stress eating will bring on cravings for sugary or fatty foods. They can be quite specific cravings like ‘A jam filled doughnut’ rather than ‘just any doughnut’ Just something to recognise when it happens.
  3. While you are physically hungry, once eaten, you will be satisfied and full. However, when you emotions are dictating the eating, it is easy to ignore the stomach and carry on eating anyway. Try to listen to your stomach… when you feel full, stop.
  4. When you eat for physical reasons, you won’t feel shame or guilt afterwards, because you have eaten the right amount to satisfy your needs and you most likely haven’t made rash, poor choices with what to eat. When you stress eat, you often feel shame and guilt about what you have eaten and will say to yourself ‘I didn’t even want that.’ Be mindful of this when you have finished eating. How do you feel? Did you make healthy choices for your body’s needs?

Tips for dealing with stress eating behaviours.

Keep a food journal: This can help you see the triggers for stress eating . When you feel the need to eat write a scale of 1-10 of how hungry you are .1 = faint with hunger 10= I’m so stuffed I have to undo the top button.

Own and recognise your feelings: Think about how you are feeling when you eat certain foods. For example, when I eat a Biscoff Krispy Kreme I know I am feeling proud as I use them as a reward. However, when I eat a whole pizza, I know it’s because I am feeling low. I always own the way I feel when eating.

Work on your coping skills: When you are about to reach for the food that you know will make you feel shameful and guilty stop and think. How will I feel if I don’t eat this food? What’s the worst that can happen? Have a think about what else you can do to relax or feel better. Perhaps a walk? Some stretches? Listening to your favourite music?

Unlearn the habit of turning to food to destress. As with any bad habits, they have to be unlearnt over a sustained period of time. Keep turning to the alternative activities that we previously mentioned and keep busy with that activity instead of turning to food.

Wait it out. It is easy for a stress eater to think that if they don’t eat there and then, the feeling will get worse. If you wait it out the ‘hunger’ will subside. Think about what delay tactics you could use when you’re next feeling emotionally hungry.