Aug 28, 2014
When your body's deprived of the nutrition it needs, a signal is sent out, alerting you to the fact. This may take the form of a rumble in the stomach, a headache or even dizziness. Regardless, this is legitimate, biological hunger. Your body's way of telling you to eat. Now.
When you are deprived of things like love, human contact or job satisfaction, a signal is also sent out. It may take the form of anger, anxiety or even depression. This can be thought of as emotional hunger. And this, too, is a legitimate need—a psychological one.
In order to live a happy and healthy life, we must satisfy both our biological hunger and emotional hunger. Unfortunately for many of you, it's food that's used to satisfy both. And this is the essence of emotional eating: attempting to satisfy your psychological needs with food.
Perhaps you eat a piece of cake instead of confronting someone. Maybe you visit the drive-thru instead of visiting a friend. Or perhaps you snack late at night instead of going to sleep with your spouse.
And on it goes.
The first thing to understand clearly here is that this is NOT something to feel ashamed of. We are human beings, which means we are flawed. As such, you, I and everybody else in the world have simply done, and are doing, the best we can to survive, with the information and tools that have been made available to us.
All of us have been dealt a different hand. What matters is what we do with that hand. And hopefully, by reading this blog post and receiving the tools and information it offers, an ace or king finds its way into your hand. One that you'll be able to benefit from for the rest of your life.
Doris's Reality Check
In order to stop feeling deprived, the first thing you need to do is separate the two kinds of deprivation. i.e. is it your body that's being deprived of its required nutrition (biological hunger)? Or is it your mind being deprived of its required psychological needs (emotional hunger)?
A patient of mine, let's call her Doris, snacks late in the afternoon and again before bed. She does this to stop herself from feeling deprived. When I asked Doris if she could fast for twelve-hours in order to prepare for a blood glucose test, she answered that she'd successfully done that several times in her life.
I asked her if her feelings or hunger had been unbearable during those times. Doris said that they hadn't been unbearable, and that, despite being hungry, she hadn't felt deprived at any stage.
"Then, you can handle the deprivation of food?" I said.
Doris's eyes lit up because she'd never thought of it in that way before; she'd been eating automatically whenever she felt deprived (emotionally hungry) since she was a little girl—without ever thinking about it.
Doris went on to tell me about an unfortunate childhood in which she was continually deprived. Deprived not of food; but of love, understanding and acceptance. And it was those feelings that sent her running into the arms of comfort food.
Today, as an adult, Doris continues this same pattern. Whenever she feels under-appreciated or unloved, she feels deprived (emotional hunger) and, instead of taking positive action, she eats.
An important distinction to make here is that Doris feeling deprived is a normal response; but the intensity in which she feels deprived, is not; it's simply a response to the memory of her childhood. Memories (and feelings) that have never been fully processed and put to rest.
These few moments of insight opened the door to a stunning piece of self-analysis and a remarkable outcome for Doris.
In order to end emotional eating, you need to understand that the feelings you are running away from (by eating) will, in fact, not hurt you; they will only help you discover your true self, and propel you forward.
Mastering the pause technique is the key to allowing these feelings in. Something my free Pocket Hunger Coach app is specifically designed to do.
You may then be able to explore these feelings on your own, and process them in order to put them behind you. If, however, you need some expert help and guidance, the ShrinkYourself Program is always just a click away.
However you proceed, please remember that attempting to satisfy your emotional hunger with food will never deliver the emotional nourishment you truly need. It's a long empty road. One littered with perhaps an even worse kind of deprivation...
That of your health and happiness.