Are You Really Hungry? Identifying Real Hunger Versus Eating For Pleasure
It’s safe to say that, as humans, we don’t always eat when we’re hungry. Sometimes we eat because a nicely prepared dish is served at dinnertime. Other times, the cells in our bodies crave certain nutrients like vitamins or minerals that need replenishing. On a rare occasion, you may eat because it makes you feel good emotionally. In this post, we’ll be discussing how to differentiate between real hunger and the desire to eat for pleasure.
What “Real Hunger” Is
Real hunger occurs when your body desperately craves sustenance and nutrients to get back to normal functioning. This state typically follows a sudden drop in blood glucose levels or insulin after going a few hours without food.
Interestingly enough, the body and mind both give off signs of “real hunger.”
The most noticeable sign that you’re experiencing real hunger is hunger pangs. You’ll feel an ache or discomfort in your empty stomach and understand that eating something is the only way to relieve the pain. Hunger pangs also tend to come with a rumbling sensation in your stomach, often described as a “growling.”
The low blood sugar that comes with real hunger produces other uncomfortable side effects that’ll last until you nourish your body. You may begin to develop a nagging headache, feel light-headed or as if you’ll pass out, become easily angered or frustrated (irritability), and feel generally fatigued.
The clear-cut sign that this is real hunger is if these symptoms go away after eating a meal. This feeling will return within a few hours when your digestive system empties the stomach, and your body needs nourishment once more.
What It Means to Eat for Pleasure
Eating for pleasure is essentially the exact opposite of eating to take care of real hunger. You don’t eat that slice of cake or an extra serving of macaroni because you don’t feel full — you continue eating because you simply want to eat.
To figure out if you’re eating for pleasure, think about your answers to the following questions:
- Do you eat because you’re hungry? Or do you eat because it makes you happy?
- When you feel stressed or emotional, do you turn to food as a coping mechanism?
- Do you crave foods with certain textures and flavors?
- Will you continue to eat, even when you feel full?
- Do you feel a sense of emotional relief and comfort after eating?
If you’re like a lot of Americans, you eat to cope with your uncontrolled emotions and to feel better about yourself. This improved mood from eating your favorite foods, even when you’re not hungry, is due to endorphins that the body releases after eating.
These endorphins give you a “natural high” that helps your body and mind see the connection between eating a particular food and feeling better emotionally. As a result, you develop a dependence on the food that mimics any other addiction, turning to food as a source of happiness and fulfillment.
This result explains why many will eat to cope with breakups, divorce, a new baby, a death in the family, a stressful job, and financial difficulty.
As humans, we need to eat to get the right nutrients for energy and life. It’s not uncommon for people to eat when they have a food craving or desire to cope with emotional stress rather than feeling the physical effects of real hunger first.
Eating purely for pleasures is okay in moderation, but it does pose serious health risks if you continue long-term. There’s a risk of overeating, weight gain, and a dependence on food rather than other coping strategies.