What are you hungry for?

Finding out what you are hungry for…

We eat for many reasons, from birth it is mainly because we are physically hungry. However over time our relationship with food can become more complex. 

Foods can:

- be comforting

- be a sign of acceptance

- be part of a celebration

- evoke memories of time shared with people at a particular time and place. 

We can say a lot with food, how we care for ourselves, how we respond to others and how we relate to the world around us. To understand how food can benefit our health it is important to look at not just what we eat but when, where and how we eat, as this helps us appreciate the context in which our relationship with food and ourselves is played out.

Hungry for what?

Our needs are best satisfied when they are matched. For example emotional hunger like boredom can never be satisfied or overcome by eating. Being physically hungry for a big meal will not be satisfied by a small green salad. 

First identify whether you are feeling emotional or physical hunger.

Emotional - Are you feeling: angry, lonely, bored, anxious, sad, happy?
Physical - Do you feel slight stomach rumbling; finding it harder to concentrate?

Physical hunger

It is hard to make decisions on what to eat when you are ravenously hungry and this is when foods like cakes, crisps and chocolate are more attractive as our body needs energy quickly. To help satisfy our bodies needs it can be easier to make food choices when we are feeling peckish, it is also easier to stop eating when we make food choices at this point. If we eat when we are not hungry how will we know when to stop?

Satisfying physical hunger

What taste do you fancy?

What texture do you like?

What colour is appealing?

How do you want to feel after eating it? 

Tips on meeting physical hunger

  • Try using a menu planner.
  • Carry non-perishable snacks with you to avoid getting too hungry.

Satisfying emotional hunger

What are you feeling?

How can you meet that need? 

Tips on meeting emotional hunger

  • Comfort menu: List a number of activities that make you feel better such as: listen to music, phone a friend, go for a walk, read a book, etc.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Stratford Upon Avon, CV37
Written by Jo Withers, Registered Dietitian/ Nutritionist and Yoga teacher
Stratford Upon Avon, CV37

I specialise in eating disorders which includes under eating, overeating, bingeing and yoyo dieting. I use evidence based practice to support people in improving their relationship with food and themselves. I am a registered Dietitian with the HCPC and a member of the British Dietetic Association sub group Dietitians working in Mental Health.

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