If you regularly eat junk food your body can learn the behaviour and trigger cravings when you're not hungry.
If you regularly eat junk food your body can learn the behaviour and trigger cravings when you're not hungry.

Food for thought: Do you eat when you’re not hungry?

WE EAT for all sorts of reasons - when we're angry or sad, stressed or festive, starving or hormonal.

Most people overeat usually when they aren't actually hungry in the first place.

Eventually it becomes impossible to distinguish between hunger that is real and hunger that is fake.

There are actually several different types of hunger, because our drive to eat comes from various sources that often don't have anything to do with physical hunger - that real, true hunger that begins as a rumbling sensation in your stomach about every three to four hours.

The sensation will intensify as a major discomfort, or even pain, the longer you ignore it.

Eventually it will settle but come again in waves until you satiate it by giving your body and brain what they need to function.

Can you tell the difference between real hunger and other kinds of hunger?

Let's take a look at five types of hunger to help you identify why you're eating when you're not really hungry.

EMOTIONAL HUNGER

Sad, angry, stressed, anxious, lonely, tired, bored?

There are many different emotions that can overcome us and yet instead of allowing ourselves some breathing room to feel the emotions and allow them to pass, we often try to smother them with our favourite foods.

Emotions can be like hunger - uncomfortable.

So replacing the discomfort with a pleasurable and soothing sensation in our mouths and bellies often seems like the closest thing to comfort for our brains.

HORMONAL HUNGER

If your hunger-regulating neurotransmitters and hormones (cortisol, insulin, ghrelin, leptin) are suffering imbalance from dieting, irregular eating patterns or just plain too much sugar and processed foods, they will drive your hunger as cravings.

Cravings caused by hormonal hunger can overcome even the staunchest willpower and can lead to intense mood swings, fatigue and a near-constant desire to eat, regardless of being "full".

NUTRITIONAL HUNGER

Since most of today's food is often classed as "food-like" substances void of nutrients, your hunger is never truly satisfied.

Therefore after a highly processed meal you'll be hungry again a short time later because your cells have not been truly satisfied and they will constantly be at you to give them the nutrition they deserve.

HABITUAL HUNGER

Each one of us has habits regarding food - eating in front of the TV, eating in the car when travelling, eating when we see someone else eating, eating when we're bored or looking for distraction.

The brain will learn when and how food was obtained as a survival method to obtain more if ever in need.

For example, if after work you always manage to drive home a certain way that just happens to pass your local McDonald's drive through and you start stopping every afternoon for a burger (telling yourself you're so hungry and tired you can't wait until you get home and make something), your brain will learn that behaviour and default to it every afternoon when you're driving home.

Learned hunger can force you to overeat based simply on bad eating habits.

VISUAL HUNGER

When we see a certain food and start thinking about it, the visual stimulation creates an emotional connection driven by memory and we start to salivate and want that food.

Advertising companies use this to their advantage by using delectable food images to flash in front of you between your favourite TV shows.

If we continue to see or think about that food we begin to crave it, even though we may not be physically hungry.

Some food for thought in what's driving your own hunger.



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