How To Tell If You’re Truly Hungry or Just Emotional Eating in Disguise

Our celebrations always begin with food, regardless of the occasion. Surprisingly, food dominates our whole existence. Food is crucial in life because it provides us with the energy and nutrients, we need for our bodies to operate and live a healthy life.

We are conditioned from an early age to expect food as a reward when we do anything in life, and when we are bored or upset, our mothers prepare our favorite cuisine to comfort us. We celebrate with food; birthday parties begin with a cake, which is also food. We’re watching a movie, and you’re craving something to eat. When you are worried or agitated, you binge eat without stopping. You awaken in the middle of the night, bored and wishing for food. Food is so essential to us in every way. We never noticed the shift from eating for survival to eating for every feeling.


Food and Emotional Connect

While my mother was attempting to feed me, I felt the most affection. She was extremely emotional when she was behind me fetching a cup of milk or a plate of fruits. She lets me complete my meal by using our time spent together in conversation. Food is love, and love is food, thus I suppose that this is how food has an emotional connection from an early age.

As I grew older, my father began to reward me with chocolate every time I did anything well. Dad used to give me chocolates whenever I achieved good grades in my class or received a high score. As a result, the success or achievement of both provided enjoyment in the form of a gastronomic treat.

Without our knowledge when you grew older when you do not receive good praises you compliment yourself with food that will be satisfying for you.

To pass the time when we’re bored, my brother and I will often eat a bag of chips or a bucket of popcorn. We used to watch movies and snack on nachos with delicious dips, so even when we were bored, we enjoyed the food.

I was in a lot of agonies after my first breakup and lost track of how many tubs of ice cream I consumed since it felt so comforting. My head felt relaxing even though my heart was burning with anguish. So, when I was depressed, ice cream (food) soothed me.

My job was extremely stressful, and even when I left the office and went home, I continued to feel stressed out because my manager and co-workers were contacting or emailing me about work-related problems. So that’s when I started eating sweets; I started strolling about and never realized when I was done. I discovered I’m a stress eater at that point.

I used to like to eat sweets after one or two candies when I was stressed. I knew eating sweets was terrible for me, yet I couldn’t resist the impulse to eat some more. I wasn’t hungry, but the need to have one more after another made me feel powerless, so I ate all the sweets. My buddies later brought up the term “compulsive eating” when I brought it up to them.

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That’s when I understood that I’m not the only one who does this; many other people also engage in similar behavior. At that point, I also recognized that we are eating addicts who have begun substituting food for a variety of other pursuits and emotions in our lives without even realizing it.

Therefore, it is crucial to understand if you are eating because you are actually hungry, whether you need to eat, or whether you are eating out of emotion. This is because emotional eating often results in overeating, which may cause obesity, bowel inflammation, upset gut flora, and a myriad of other health problems including diabetes and heart attacks.

In this read, we will find out how to tell if we are truly hungry or if we are just emotional eating in disguise.


Emotions and Hormones

What Are You Craving for A Particular Food?

If you were genuinely hungry, any food would satisfy you by filling you up. However, if you are an emotional eater, you will seek delicacies that you connect with comfort and enjoyment. If you do not get the food you have chosen, you will be dissatisfied or will still crave it, and you will be satisfied only after you get that food. You gain some comfort or have a connection with that particular food, therefore you won’t be pleased with anything else, whether it’s a pastry or a cookie from a specific baker.


Check If You Are Thirsty

According to clinical investigations, 37 percent of people confuse thirst for hunger because thirst signals might be insufficient. 

The body will communicate with you in many ways and let you know when you’re thirsty, but it’s simple to disregard those signs when you do. The body decides to give you messages indicating that you are extremely hungry, which normally results in you devouring something – although probably not especially nutritiously. When thirsty, many people desire foods high in water content, whereas dehydrated, they crave salty foods. So, whenever you’re hungry, try to consume a cup of water beforehand. Each day, our bodies require 8 glasses, or 2-3 liters, of water. 


If you are already binge eating and frequently confused about whether you are hungry or thirsty. Take into account the following, when you are thirsty, you will notice certain signs.

  • Skin that is parched
  • Feeling lethargic
  • Dry eyes
  • Elevated heartbeat
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

When you initially feel “hungry,” resist the urge to grab the first snack you see. To determine if you are hungry or thirsty, drink water within your fluid allotment and wait 15 minutes. When you were only thirsty, you would feel satiated, but if you were actually hungry, you would still experience a stomachache.


Are You Sleep-Deprived?

emotional eating guide how to identify emotional eating eating when not hungry only eat when hungry

The body needs eight hours of sleep and rest; else, you will remain inactive throughout the day. Late-night partying, or late-night work or study leaves you restless and weary throughout the day.

You want a brief nap, but that is not feasible in the middle of the workday, so you end up binge eating.

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A lack of sleep alters our perception of hunger via two hormones: leptin and ghrelin.

A hormone called ghrelin is in charge of alerting the brain when you’re hungry and promoting appetite. As soon as you consume something, leptin, a hormone, signals your feeling of fullness.

It has been demonstrated that not getting enough sleep and rest causes your blood levels of ghrelin and leptin to change. Ghrelin levels have been demonstrated to rise and leptin levels to fall in those who don’t get enough sleep and rest.

So, when you’re sleep-deprived, you’re more likely to feel hungrier and less able to discern when you’re full, which leads to a need for more food. Due to a yearning for food even when you are not hungry, you eat more than you should because of this belief.

Checking your routine and the amount of rest you give your body will help you determine if you are genuinely hungry or drowsy.


Happy Hormone

Emotional eating demonstrates that consuming certain meals, particularly sweet ones, kicks off a chain reaction that results in the production of serotonin, your “happy hormone.” You may find yourself digging into a tub of ice cream to balance your hormones when you’re experiencing anxiety, depression, or boredom.  Since you understand now and next time you carve for something, you know what to do without searching for food.  

You are now peckish and have a sweet tooth. Identify and address your underlying feeling. Whether you’re stressed, let it out by talking to a friend or clearing your mind, and then check to see if you still have the same need.


Stress Hormone

Stress, like workload, and lack of sleep, alter our perception of hunger by altering our chemical balance. In reaction to stressful circumstances, our bodies release cortisol.

We frequently hear that stress eating can cause obesity, so try to unwind and stop worrying. However, what if we binge eat while stressed out?

When you are stressed, the hormone cortisol is generated, and research has shown that cortisol not only increases hunger but also instructs the body to store any extra energy. So, the fat is stored.

Therefore, the next time you suspect you may be desiring food as a result of stress, think about relaxing with a cup of tea and some quiet time, then try to meditate and unwind before you start seeking food.


Hunger Scale 

emotional eating guide how to identify emotional eating eating when not hungry only eat when hungry

When you are hungry, rate your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10.

It could be time to eat if your hunger level is between four and five. Have a nutritious snack if it isn’t time for your next meal. 

Ideally, you should not be at either extreme – famished at level one or overstuffed at level ten. Vary between a four and a seven.

Before meals and even immediately before bedtime in the evenings, hunger is common and anticipated.


Real Hunger

If you are truly hungry, you will have no desire to binge eat. It’s possible that these symptoms mean you’re indeed starving.

  • You have an empty feeling in your stomach
  • Stomach gurgles or rumbles
  • Feeling dizzy, faint, or light-headed
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Nausea
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Emotional hunger is your body’s method of telling you that you need comfort or something comforting. Long-term despair or a wave of deep-seated rage, a lack of confidence to speak honestly, being unable to achieve what you want despite considerable effort, any condition can lead to emotional stress.

Hunger would result from emotional tension. Many times, you may not be actually hungry, but rather stressed out and in need of a stress reliever; regardless of your efforts, you cannot satisfy emotional hunger.

To stop emotional eating, I suggest bringing unconscious demands into the light, where they may be deliberately questioned and worked through.

To reduce boredom, try talking to a friend or relative. When you don’t make it a habit of talking about your problems with others, your emotional burden keeps growing, which causes a lot of stress.

Engage in any hobbies or activities that interest you. When people are busy, we stop relying on them, but the food never rejects us, so because it is always accessible, we find comfort in it.

You may require the support of a therapist because they may be difficult to identify on your own at times. You should always seek medical attention if you notice anything unusual about yourself, your health, or your eating habits.

When you learn new ways to deal with yourself and the underlying triggers, food will no longer be your go-to comfort. In contrast, it becomes a component of a balanced, healthy lifestyle.



When you’re hungry, instead of reaching for a quick snack, take a time to assess if you’re truly hungry. For a healthy way of life, it’s important to distinguish between actual bodily hunger and emotional hunger. Physical hunger is a progressive sensation that is correlated with when you last ate. While stress, anxiety, or weariness are some of the things that cause emotional hunger.

If you take a few seconds to step away from the refrigerator, take a deep breath, and consider what you are genuinely craving, you will learn a lot about your body, habits, and emotions. Your performance and body composition goals will be greatly aided by it, in addition to other benefits.

Your body’s way of notifying you that you need consolation or something calming is through emotional hunger. It’s possible that you’re not genuinely hungry but only stressed out and in need of a little break or a stroll outside. Hunger is also influenced by one’s energy level. regardless of your efforts, you cannot appease your hunger. Consider going to therapy. Find out how to empty your emotions and emptiness by calling your doctor. You will see changes after only a few sessions.


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