Food and Nutrition

Are You Really Hungry? Physical vs. Emotional Hunger

| by Mitzi Dulan

Being aware of your hunger types can be very beneficial for someone trying to lose weight. When you are more aware on whether your hunger is physiological/physical or psychological/emotional, then you can be in more control, by learning the triggers. This will allow you to set an action plan to stop emotional eating in the future. Here are some tips on distinguishing the two different types.

Emotional Hunger

  • What are you feeling? Do you feel Angry/Happy, Lonely/Crowded, Frightened/At ease, Bored/Overwhelmed, Tired/Energized, Embarrassed/Proud? If you are feeling an emotion linked to your hunger, chances are it is emotional.
  • Realizing what emotion you are feeling, you can ask yourself, Will food help? How will you feel in the short term/long term, afterwards/tomorrow? Negative feelings after eating are often the result of emotional eating.
  • Do you feel a compulsion to eat? If you do, chances are it is emotional hunger
  • Ask yourself what you can do instead of eating if you are experiencing emotional hunger. Set a timer for 15 minutes and do something else, then see if you are still have the craving afterwards.


Physical Hunger:

  • Is it an actual meal time? If you just ate a meal an hour ago, then it probably isn’t physical hunger.
  • Do you feel grumbling in your stomach? If you do, chances are it is physical hunger.
  • Think of what foods you are hungry for when your stomach is growling. Do you want something Hot/Cold, Sweet/Sour, Soft/Hard, Crunchy/Mushy, Salty/Bitter, Wet/Dry, Liquid/Solid. Knowing the types of foods you are actually hungry for is important to be aware of for weight loss.
  • Are you thirsty? Your hunger might be masked by thirst.
  • How hungry are you? Gauge your hunger on a scale of 0-10. Practice identifying your actual hunger before, during and after eating with this hunger scale. It would be ideal to stay within 3-6 on this scale below.


0- Famished
1- Extremely hungry
2- Hungry
3- Slightly hungry
4- Almost satisfied
5- Neutral
6- Satisfied
7- Almost full
8- Full
9- Very full
10- Stuffed