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Meat Burger and Chips

nutrition articles

Emotional eating vs hunger

Have you ever felt down, depressed, bored, angry or even happy, and found yourself eating ice-cream, cake, cookies, chips even though you had just eaten and weren’t hungry?  This is called emotional eating, which is used to satisfy emotions as well as real stomach hunger.


Emotional eating is a way people attempt to make themselves feel better and gain a sense of well-being. Often people eat what we refer to as “comfort foods” when doing this. This type of eating can sabotage weight loss and increase weight gain.

Emotional eating often becomes a habit or a cycle that people use to help cope with both positive and negative emotions.  The emotional problem or situation is never addressed; food, instead is used to soothe emotions. 

The first key to controlling emotional eating is to be able to distinguish Emotional hunger from physical hunger.  Here are some ways to distinguish between the two hungers, from


  • Comes on suddenly 

  • Feels like it needs to be satisfied instantly

  • Craves specific comfort foods

  • Isn’t satisfied with a full stomach

  • Triggers feelings of guilt, powerlessness, and shame


  • Comes on gradually

  • Can wait

  • Open to options – lots of things sound appealing

  • Stops when one is full

  • Doesn’t make you feel bad about yourself

Triggers for emotional eating may include, but aren’t limited to: Unemployment, financial pressure, health problems, relationship conflicts, work stress and/or fatigue.

The next time a sudden craving for ice-cream comes on, try to distinguish between the two hungers. Is it emotional hunger or physical hunger? While it’s okay to have treats once in a while, emotional eating can lead to bad habits.


Health professionals advise that if you’ve tried self-help options and still aren’t able to control emotional eating, you should seek help from a professional.

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