Emotional Hunger v Normal Hunger
Emotional hunger is different from normal hunger. Normal hunger occurs several hours after food has been consumed and builds up gradually. When experiencing normal hungry, it is possible to go for quite some time before eating as the feeling of hunger increases progressively.
Emotional hunger on the other hand is immediate and demanding. Like a craving, the feelings come on suddenly and demand to be heard and responded to.
Emotional hunger is a result of stirred up emotions. If you take notice of when a strong and sudden craving for food or any other medication occurs you’ll find that the craving feeling is always preceded by a negative feeling and a negative feeling is triggered by a thought or an event. Something happens, or doesn’t happen and you make it mean something to you or you stir up a memory or think fearfully about what might happen.
You may begin to tell yourself, in that moment, that you are uncared for, unloved, helpless, hopeless, useless or worthless or you begin to think about being fed up, pissed off, livid or lonely. The self-talk you indulge in and the pictures it creates make you feel, stressed, angry, frustrated and anxious or any other emotion common to you and the feelings trigger what is known as ‘emotional eating.’
Negative emotions hurt, they feel bad. We humans don’t like them and we want them to go away so we have devised ways of doing that. Some people attempt to stop the self-inflicted pain using alcohol, some use drugs, some self-harm and others attempt to stuff down the feelings using food.
None of these methods work. When the effects of alcohol and drugs wear off the user feels even worse than before. When the self-harmer has been to hospital and been stitched up they feel even worse than they did originally and when an emotional over eater’s binge is over he/she has added to the original anger, misery and frustration that made them reach for the food in the first place.
This is what, in the CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) model; is called the vicious circle. Negative thoughts create negative emotions, negative emotions create negative behaviours and negative behaviours create more negative thoughts and on and on.
There are two ways of dealing with the emotions that cause emotional overeating. The first way is to wait until you are in the situation and then try to change the way you feel in the moment. With lots of practice and the right tools you can learn how to do that but that’s the hard way and I wouldn’t recommend it.
Overcoming Emotional Overeating
The second way, the one I do recommend you use is to use the power of ‘intention’ to set a different ‘intention’ for the evening ahead. Unless you change the ‘intention’ you will overeat because overeating in the evenings has become habitual. Setting a new ‘intention’ will override habitual behaviour and you could try this: “Tonight I’m eating wisely, slowly and consciously and when I go to bed I’m feeling really proud of myself.”
You can do this with any situation that normally bugs you, setting a new ‘intention’ for each part of your day. The choice is yours, habitual patterns or new ‘intentions,’ which will it be?