Let’s be honest, when you’re at home at the end of the day and lying on the couch, nobody craves chicken breast and broccoli. Now, I am not one to ever coddle but maybe it’s not entirely your fault when the drive-through calls your name and you hit fourth meal. But the next time you are sitting at home and debating whether to eat a few brownies or hit the drive-thru, evaluate what type of hungry you are. Ask yourself if you are actually hungry and want the calories to fuel or refuel your body. For me, I always ask myself, do you want some eggs, if the answer is yes, I get up and eat some eggs if I don’t and I really want a burger, or taco or pizza, then I know I just want those foods for the sake of eating them. Depending on the day and depending on how I ate earlier in the day will dictate the next outcome. If I started the day out strong and have done well all day, I can usually stay strong and resist any temptation. But if I haven’t eaten enough or I started out the day with a poor meal, I usually have the “fuck it” attitude, I have already messed up today, might as well just enjoy my day.
We as humans are only capable of making so many decisions a day, notice the president only wears two suits and two different ties. Tech moguls like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs wear the same thing to work every day. Every day we are challenged with decisions, from what you want to wear, what you want to eat to who is picking the kids up from school, should I work out today, etc….by the end of the day we are at our limit, so your decision to eat a pint of ice cream or box of cookies is not ALL your fault. I am not saying you shouldn’t take some damn responsibility for yourself and own up but there more to it and I will go into it here. I am not a nutrition expert, nor am I perfect when it comes to my own eating habits but I do recognize my strengths and weaknesses. As G. I. Joe once said, “knowing is half the battle”. I am just a normal guy who struggles like everyone else between the conundrum of I want abs but fuck it the dad bod is in right so I should go get tacos.
So this article is about the difference between emotional vs physical hunger, not decision-making but since they go hand and hand it’s worth addressing both.
Physical Hunger is real hunger, it’s the type of hunger where you will literally eat your own arm off, you don’t care what it is, you want calories. When you’re physically hungry boiled chicken and dry spinach sound good because you just want something.
Physical hunger if pushed is where we develop that all too well-known feeling of being Hangry, which is basically bitch, get out of my way, your blocking my path to food. I am about to go survival mode, feast or famine on you and if you don’t get out of my way I might do unforgivable things.
Here are some key signs to look for when evaluating if its physical hunger:
- Comes on gradually and can be postponed
- Can be satisfied by any type of food
- Once you are full you can stop eating
- Causes satisfaction and does not cause guilt
Emotional hunger is the type of hunger where you crave something specific. Ice cream. Cake. Cookies. Or in my case, since I don’t have a sweet tooth. Pizza, burritos, double cheeseburgers, and tacos. As I said above, nobody craves chicken breast and broccoli. Sure some you out there probably enjoy chicken and broccoli and you feel good knowing you are eating something good for you. You’re on that mission for abs am I right? Even then, I am not saying you cant like eating “healthy food” I am just saying that you want something else. You know its funny back when I was a full-time personal trainer, I would have clients some of whom were looking to lose weight or tighten up would tell me, “well I had just a small piece of cake, or just a bite of a cookie, my usual response was, A- You’re lying, nobody just has one bite, especially when you get that first bite and that first hit of dopamine it triggers you to keep going back for more.
Here are some signs of emotional hunger:
- Comes on suddenly and feels urgent
- Causes specific cravings; pizza, chocolate, ice cream
- Eat more than you normally would and feel uncomfortably full
- Leaves you feeling guilty
You might be emotionally hungry because:
Your senses were triggered, sight, smell, sight and even sound can trigger you to want something. Think of your brain operating like an Abercrombie and Fitch, just dousing your brain in cologne to get you to buy it.
What is dopamine? Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that is excreted into our brain when we are experiencing happiness. It doesn’t have to occur when we eat food but there’s a reason why we call certain foods, Comfort Foods, you can have a dopamine release by hitting a PR in the gym or getting away or asking your crush out on a date and they say yes. It’s a chemical reaction that your body craves. We all want to be happy, we may have differing degrees of happiness but at the root level we all want to be.
Is it ok for us to be hungry? Being hungry is ok. We should allow our stomach to have a break. If we’re constantly putting food in it, it never gets a break. Now I know exactly what’s your going through your head, well I need to eat all the time to keep my body from going into starvation mode and keep it a fat-burning machine. Yes, we should teach our bodies to become fat-burning machines but that doesn’t give you the freedom to shove handful after handful of almonds into your mouth.
Let me say, that I have never been one to really focus on counting calories. I eat more than nearly anyone I have ever met but I am attempting to optimize my body. Now by nature, I do not manage my carbohydrates well, meaning for me to lean out, I need to reduce the carbs that eat dramatically. The majority of my diet consists of protein and vegetables. On the weekends I tend to let loose a bit more but during the week I am putting down 3-4 dozen organic pasture eggs, 5 lbs of organic beef, chicken or fish and I try to get a pound of vegetables in a day. You would think that if I eat this way, I would be just shredded but its something I constantly trying for. My weight has fluctuated all my life, just like you I go through good times and bad but at the end of the day, I have a healthy relationship with how I eat. Some might say too healthy. (ba bum bum)
Should we be eating 3 square meals or 6 small meals? This is a fairly hot topic out there right now. On one hand, you have the fitness competitors out there who are extremely regimented, their meals are weighed out and measured down to the very ounce and in order to get that lean, they have to. Then there is the Intermittent Fasting folks/ structured eating window group. This group would argue that we should have ample time to be in a fasted state really forcing our bodies to mobilize fat for energy. I have never competed in a Fitness completion, nor do I think I will, but I do not discredit the work they put in, but I know for me, eating 6 small meals
So in closing, I am not here to tell you how to eat, or what to eat, but merely help you recognize that not all hunger is created equal.