How to distinguish between emotional hunger and physical hunger

Normal physical hunger is often mistaken with emotional hunger that triggers emotional eating. They are two completely different types of hunger. Emotional hunger is emotional based while physical hunger is physiologically based, you need to eat so that the body can continue functioning properly.

Emotional hunger appears suddenly. If one minute ago food was far from your mind and now it’s all you can think about then the hunger you are feeling is emotional based.

Physical hunger appears gradually. First you feel an emptiness of the stomach, then after one hour you start feeling the rumbling of the stomach. Physical hunger gives you stronger clues as the time to eat approaches.

When you feel emotional hunger you crave a certain food: chocolate, sweets, cheeseburgers… Any other food won’t satisfy your food carving.

When you feel physical hunger you can eat different kinds of food to make it stop. Even if you would have any favorite foods you are open to alternatives. Any food is good to make hunger go away.

Food cravings specific to emotional eating are localized form the neck up. You feel the desire for a certain taste and in your mind you associate that taste with a certain feeling and outcome.

If you are plain old hungry you feel the famishment localized around the stomach. Physical hunger is characterized by an emptiness and rumbling of the stomach even bellyaches.


You feel a urgency and pressure to eat the desired food. You feel the need to put an end to the emotional discomfort as soon as possible, and the fastest way to do it is to satisfy your emotional hunger by eating.

Physical hunger can be put off for some time before it becomes unbearable. You feel the need to eat something not to eat something right then and there.

Usually emotional eating happens when an emotional charged event took place that has had bad results for you. A fight with the boss, your husband of wife are in a bad mood, a certain awaited event was canceled, are all good enough reasons to go a binging spree.

Physical hunger appears because of a physiological need. Usually you get hungry 4 to 5 hours after the last meal. If more time passes and you postpone eating you might feel dizziness, a sensation of tiredness and lack of energy.

The ugly part of emotional hunger is that you still feel it at full force after the stomach is full. You eat because you want to feel better not because you are genuinely hungry. You will keep eating until the bad feelings go away. Of course you will get fat and more bad feelings will be created soon and then…

Physical hunger stops when the stomach had its fill. The purpose of hunger is that of making sure that you refuel so that you will have energy to do all the daily activities. That is why after eating hunger disappears. It is like a failsafe mechanism that the body uses to make sure it has all the resources to function.

Emotional eating is followed by guilt. The purpose of emotional eating is that of getting out of a bad mood and getting happy feelings. The irony is that the obtained result is exactly the opposite. Usually people feel guilty for eating a mountain of sweets and junk food. All kind of promises of “never again” are made after the food spree. The bad thing is that the promises are never kept usually and a vicious circle is formed.

Physical hunger is followed by the feeling that you had had needed the food for the good functioning of your body. It was a necessity and once it is over you need no more to think about it. You realize that eating is like breathing, a necessity to live.

By knowing the differences between emotional hunger and physical hunger you will prevent overeating when you aren’t really hungry at all.

Find out How to stop food cravings and still enjoy eating and How to eat healthy and indulge your cravings at the same time so that you will have a healthy life.

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