WHAT IS HUNGER? PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL & PSYCHOLOGICAL

WHAT IS HUNGER? PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL & PSYCHOLOGICAL

Do you find yourself reaching for a tub of ice-cream or a snack when you have had a bad day? Hunger is a bit more complex than just having your belly growl at you, although that plays a part as well!

Physical hunger presents itself as physical feelings of emptiness such as a rumbling stomach accompanied by a range of symptoms depending how hungry you are including:

  • A lack of concentration
  • Increased impulsiveness – you shouldn’t shop on an empty stomach!
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • General weakness or shakiness
  • Feeling Lightheaded or dizzy

Physical Hunger can be triggered by:

 

A Lack Of Food
Your body relies on food for energy so it is natural that you will feel hungry with an empty stomach. When you stomach has been empty for two hours it starts contracting in order to push the last of the food into the intestines – this is the rumbling you hear.

 

A Lack Of Sleep
Not getting enough rest can affect your hunger controlling hormones. People who are sleep deprived can find it harder to feel full and so eat more, and also tend go for high-calorie, high-fat foods.

 

Exercise
Can increase your desire to eat. Your body is burning fuel when you work out which leads to a boost in your metabolism so many people feel hungry after a session.

 

Emotional Or Psychological Hunger
This is the desire to eat, accompanied by no physical proof that it is necessary at that moment. While studies have shown that emotional eating is more common with women it does affect both sexes.

Experiencing any negative event such as a bad day at work or a fight with your partner etc. can lead to stress. Stress (which can be made worse through a lack of sleep) occurs when you are tense or anxious and results in the body releasing a hormone called cortisol which increases the feeling of hunger.

The main differences between physical and emotional hunger, are that emotional hunger tends to:

  • Come on suddenly
  • Not result in feeling full
  • Make you crave only certain foods – often high-fat and high sugar
  • Make you feel guilty about eating

This feeling of guilt is of course another negative experience, which can then add to the stress and so the cycle continues.

It is important to be able to distinguish between physical hunger and psychological or emotional hunger.  Learning alternative techniques to deal with stress is the key to helping anyone who finds emotional eating an issue.  Regular exercise, meditation and good sleep are all proven methods to help reduce stress.

 

Links

Science Focus – What happens in my body when I feel hungry?

CONCI – Physical or Psychological hunger

WebMD – Why Am I Always Hungry

Healthline – Emotional Eating: What you should know

Steve Grant Health – Understanding Hunger: Physical and psychological cues