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Using food as a coping mechanism can lead us to an unhealthy cycle that never addresses the real problem. Plus, eating when we’re stressed, upset, lonely, tired or bored can leave us feeling powerless against food.

We often learn these behaviours as children, when our well-meaning parents or caregivers soothe us with food, inadvertently teaching us to use food as comfort instead of dealing with the emotions we’re experiencing.

But identifying real hunger over emotional hunger is critical to developing a healthy relationship with food.

Emotional hunger:
⁃ Comes on suddenly
⁃ Makes you crave specific foods (e.g. pizza)
⁃ Leaves you unsatisfied, well after you’re full, leading to mindless overeating
⁃ Is not a growling in your belly, but a craving in your mind
⁃ Often leads to regret, guilt and shame

Physical hunger:
⁃ Comes on gradually
⁃ All foods sound good
⁃ You’re satisfied when full
⁃ You feel stomach pangs or growls
⁃ Unlikely to make you feel guilt or shame as you’ve most likely given your body the fuel it needs

One tool for controlling emotional eating is time. The next time you get a sudden craving, wait five minutes and see if you make a different decision.