How many times has it happened, perhaps discouraged by some problem that seemed unsolvable, to stick to the refrigerator or pantry and start eating everything that happened at hand? How many times have you consumed huge quantities of food, often even unhealthy, just because it happened to be in a particularly agitated mood and eating in profusion (perhaps almost without realizing what you are ingesting) seemed to calm the nervousness?
This phenomenon is caused by an impulse that leads to eating food automatically and compulsively and is called Emotional Eating or, more commonly, nervous hunger .
It is a non-physiological hunger but due to “nervous” mechanisms, that is psychic , and is felt in response to negative situations, thoughts or emotions . Usually these are emotional states such as sadness, anger, discomfort due to work or private difficulties. Nervousness manifests itself with a sort of voracity , of exaggeration in the quantity and quality of the foods ingested: when this type of hunger arrives, one does not simply tend to eat, but " binge ". Food therefore becomes a simple way to silence negative sensations or to have pleasant emotions, which is a pity that it is an ephemeral and illusory solution.
Don't worry if it rarely happens. The problem arises when this behavior is repeated, or even difficult to control . In these cases it can lead to incorrect eating habits, resulting in overweight, up to even eating disorders. To get rid of it, it is first of all necessary to find the psychic origin, without wanting to seek external causes and remedies at any cost.
5 points to distinguish physical hunger from emotional hunger?
- Physical hunger is satisfied by any food, while emotional hunger searches for that food, its smell, its taste, the sensation it gives. Wondering if you would eat a vegetable or something healthy to quench your hunger can help you figure out which one is. In case of emotional hunger, "comforting" foods are preferred, which pamper and give a sensation of pleasure, such as chocolate, snacks, ice cream, ect.
- Physical hunger is felt at the height of the stomach, the classic "hole in the stomach"; the emotional one in the head.
- Physical hunger comes on gradually, he is aware, while emotional hunger comes suddenly.
- Physical hunger subsides when satiety is felt, emotional hunger is not fully satisfied with a full stomach.
- Physical hunger is not accompanied by guilt, it is a need, emotional hunger yes.
How to fight nervous hunger?
The first step is to recognize when hunger is physical or emotional and how often it occurs. If it is a repeated behavior, it may be useful to keep a diary for a time in which to note when you have recognized a reason or a situation just before the act of eating. This allows us to better understand the problem to be solved.
The second step is to question the emotions perceived at that moment. What emotion is demanding attention through emotional hunger?
Anger? The act of eating in this case can fulfill the function of venting anger by chewing; in fact, crunchy foods are often unconsciously chosen. These in fact facilitate the decontraction of the maxillary muscles, typically stiff when angry
Boredom? It is not easy to recognize this feeling, since it manifests itself in a more veiled way. The positive side is that it takes very little to win it. Using a little creativity and organization to look for new stimuli, no longer through taste.
Sadness? In this case, we usually look for sweet foods, such as chocolate, which raise the levels of endorphins, the “feel-good” hormones and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates, among other things, the mood. And so you feel better, more serene and satisfied, even if only in the immediate future.
Stress? In stressful conditions, the level of cortisol increases and this hormone pushes you to prefer fats and sugars, as preparation for a challenge
In order not to negatively affect one's health, however, it is possible to make, even at the moment, choices that are more in line with a healthy lifestyle. If you feel the need to let off steam or feel bored, sport is known to be beneficial; if you feel nervous, it is good to limit coffee and exciting drinks , salt and alcohol during the day, which make the situation worse; at the same time, preferring relaxing herbal teas and taking moments to relax and enjoy the small pleasures of life can help in case of sadness and apathy.
However, it is also possible to take advantage of an extra help, which comes directly from nature: it is possible to try products based on Rhodiola or fibers such as Glucomannan.
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