Ann knew she was experiencing some health problems as a result of being seriously overweight. She had very little energy, her knees hurt all the time, her menstrual cycle was messed up, and her cholesterol level was dangerously high. She knew she needed to lose weight – and the first step was changing how she ate. But she was finding it very difficult. She sat on the exam table and told me, “I’m an emotional eater. It’s the way I handle stress.”
The good news is that Ann realizes there is a difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger. Feeding emotional hunger with physical food may lessen the “Feed me!” screaming in your brain, but that only lasts a little while. When the underlying need has not been met, the mental demand for “food” only gets louder once again.
My friend Kathrine Lee likes to say, “It’s not what you’re eating: it’s what’s eating you!” Understanding – and meeting – the different needs we have with appropriate “nourishment” will make a huge difference in our health and happiness.
For the many of us who reach for food to quiet any hunger we feel, it may take some thinking and self-study to truly understand what our body and mind is really asking for. Here are some different kinds of hunger we can misinterpret as a need for food: