Emotional hunger and Physical hunger,
The University of Texas
Counseling and Mental Health Center web site
1. Emotional hunger comes on suddenly; physical hunger occurs gradually.
2. When you are eating to fill a void that isn't related to an empty stomach, you crave a specific food, such as pizza or ice cream, and only that food will meet your need.
When you eat because you are actually hungry, you're open to options.
3. Emotional hunger feels like it needs to be satisfied instantly with the food you crave; physical hunger can wait.
4. Even when you are full, if you're eating to satisfy an emotional need, you're more likely to keep eating. When you're eating because you're hungry, you're more likely to stop when you're full.
5. Emotional eating can leave behind feelings of guilt; eating when you are physically hungry does not.
When emotional hunger rumbles, one of its distinguishing characteristics is that you're focused on a particular food, which is likely a comfort food.
"Comfort foods are foods a person eats to obtain or maintain a feeling,"
says Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Food and Brand Lab at the University of Illinois.
"Comfort foods are often wrongly associated with negative moods, and indeed, people often consume them when they're down or depressed, but interestingly enough, comfort foods are also consumed to maintain good moods."
Ice cream is first on the comfort food list.
After ice cream, comfort foods break down by sex:
For women it's chocolate and cookies;
for men it's pizza, steak, and casserole, explains Wansink.
What you reach for when eating to satisfy an emotion depends on the emotion.
According to an article by Wansink, published in the July 2000 American Demographics, "The types of comfort foods a person is drawn toward varies depending on their mood. People in happy moods tended to prefer ... foods such as pizza or steak (32%). Sad people reached for ice cream and cookies 39% of the time, and 36% of bored people opened up a bag of potato chips."