Quote: Emotional and physical hunger is like junk food and a nutritious meal – one may taste better in the moment, but the other fuels your body for the future.

Ongoing research to better understand human’s relationship with food has identified a clear distinction between emotional and physical hunger as the driving forces behind how, when, and what we eat. Recognizing this difference is important, as it can lead to a healthier and more mindful approach to our eating habits. It’s pretty fascinating how our emotions, such as stress or worry, can sometimes cause us to identify an unhealthy food as “comfort” food and develop a craving for it when we feel some kind of way.

“Ugh, my boss called me at 3:00 pm on Friday afternoon to tell me she needs a report on her desk by 8:00 am Monday. Where are the chips and diet soda?”

Emotional hunger is about impulsive urges and satisfying them immediately, while physical hunger is a gradual process that responds to our body’s need for nourishment. By recognizing and understanding these two types of hunger, you can make healthier choices and have a better relationship with food.

With food, the right feelings can create the right outcomes. Here are six feelings that can contribute to a positive relationship with food:

  1. Gratitude: Cultivating a sense of gratitude for healthy food can enhance your eating experience. Appreciating the flavors, textures, and nourishment that fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, and seeds provide can help you savor each bite and develop a deeper connection with what you consume.
  2. Mindfulness: Being present and mindful while eating allows you to fully engage with your meals. Paying attention to food’s taste, smell, and texture can improve your enjoyment and satisfaction. Mindful eating also helps recognize when you are full, preventing overeating.
  3. Joy: Approaching meals with joy and enthusiasm can make the experience more pleasurable. Finding joy in trying new recipes, exploring different cuisines, or sharing meals with loved ones can create positive associations with food.
  4. Self-compassion: Practicing self-compassion involves being kind and understanding toward yourself, especially with your relationship with food. Acknowledging that it’s okay to indulge occasionally or make less healthy choices without guilt can help foster a balanced approach to eating.
  5. Awareness: Developing awareness of your body’s hunger and fullness cues is essential for maintaining a healthy relationship with food. Tuning in to your body’s signals allows you to eat when hungry and stop when satisfied.
  6. Balance: Striving for balance in your diet involves incorporating various foods from different food groups. Balancing indulgent treats with nutrient-dense options ensures your nutritional needs are met while enjoying the foods you love.

By cultivating these feelings around food, you can create positive outcomes such as improved overall well-being, increased meal satisfaction, and a healthier relationship with eating.

Everyone’s relationship with food is unique, and it’s important to listen to your body’s cues and honor your needs. If you struggle with emotional eating or disordered eating patterns, consider seeking support from a healthcare professional, such as a culinary medicine specialist or registered dietitian who can provide personalized guidance.




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