Pillar 2: Learn the difference between emotional and physical hunger.
Many people can’t pinpoint what hunger feels like in their body and tend to get confused, even though physical hunger is one of the most innate sensations in our body. We try and push against our hunger, ignoring it when it is not convenient for us or acting like it is our body’s fault for needing fuel at an inopportune time.
I remember thinking that it would be a dream come true if I never had to eat again, because I would have such severe anxiety about food and issues I had surrounding eating, like weight gain.
We are often taught to relay on external sources to tell us whether we are hungry or not. Through the practice of intuitive eating, we are able to listen to the innate wisdom of our bodies, without fear of overeating or feeling deprived. After all, the only expert on what and how we fuel our bodies is well, our bodies.
I think is it time to see what the expert has to say.
I suggest that you use this as an exploration of your body and how different levels of hunger feel (read: Hunger Meter). For example, the feeling of hunger is different for many, but the sensations that generally signal hunger are the feeling of an empty stomach, possibly gurgling, may be even a little rumbling.
Physical hunger has a sensation of emptiness within your stomach; there is also a feeling of lightness within your body. Opposed to emotional hunger, which is harder to locate, but generally the feeling is of empty hollowness, which is harder to pinpoint within your body.
Once you have been able to discern between physical and emotional hunger, there are two different key tools you can use to help guide you through each hunger.
When you are feeling physically hungry, I suggest that you use the Hunger Meter. This is the key tool to help you practice eating from -2 to 2 (check out this post that explains this topic in greater detail). The Intuitive Eating Exercise is another tool that gives you a step-by-step example of what Intuitive Eating looks like. Both tools are in my Intuitive Eating Tool Box.
However, when you are feeling emotional hunger, you can use the Thought Inventory Tool. This tool is so important for many circumstances throughout your life, but for now we will talk about using it to work through emotional eating. The Thought Inventory will help you explore what is really going on in your mind*.
Here is how you do a Thought Inventory:
- Give yourself 5-10 minutes
- Grab a sheet of paper or a notebook
- Write down all of the sentences that are going on in your brain (your thoughts)
- Empty out all of your thoughts on to a sheet of paper
- Now, after 5-10 minutes are up, take a look at what you wrote
- What emotions can you connect with your thoughts?
- Can you pinpoint your thoughts that are making you feel like you want to eat?
- Can you connect an emotion to your need to eat when you are not physically hungry?
- Is there are way to redirect your thought to a more positive or neutral one?
Remember, thoughts create your emotions. Your emotions drive your actions. Your actions lead to your results.
Emotions are just vibrations in your body. You can live through any emotion. We all have these fears that emotions are going to harm us, but remember, they are just vibrations in our bodies.
Once you have pinpointed the thought, instead of eating, just sit with your emotion for 10 minutes. Describe to yourself how it feels; you might want to write it down.
If you still want to eat give yourself the permission to eat, but be sure to ask yourself why you still want to eat. Notice how the food tastes and how it feels in your body. Ask yourself after, if you are happy with your choice to eat. Why or why not?
During this exploration of the two different types of hunger, be patient with yourself. Think about treating yourself like someone you just met, it takes time to get to know a new person and it takes patience to understand them at the level you are trying to get to know yourself. Give yourself love, compassion and grace during this exciting journey.
*I would like to thank Brooke Castillo for introducing me to her “Thought Download” and The Model. This are two tools that I have used to help inform my work.