Have you ever stopped to consider your hunger? Stopped to think of why am I eating? Am I really hungry? Can you distinguish between a physiologically driven desire to eat and a psychological need to eat? There is a difference, and yet for most of us, we’re unable to distinguish between the two.

Let’s do the basics first.

Physical hunger is a physiological response – just like the physiological sensation you get when you need to go to the bathroom. It is designed to be listened to, you know, like when you need to pee, you need to pee.

When you’re physically hungry, your stomach is empty and your brain will send a signal to let you know by that growling stomach, a headache, you might feel irritable (hangry!), tired, or have difficulty concentrating.

With physical hunger, you feel sated and satisfied once you have eaten. The same way you feel relieved once you have gone to the bathroom!

Psychological hunger is different. Psychological hunger is more the desire to eat with no obvious physical feelings. Psychological hunger is often fast acting and impulsive. It is usually connected to certain events, emotions, times of day and detached from hunger pangs, often it follows meals when you cannot still be hungry.

When you are psychologically hungry, your body is sending you a message – it is your body’s way of communicating, expressing itself and it is asking you to take a moment to stop, pause, tune in. What is it that needs to be felt? Experienced? Expressed? Label the emotion. Identify the feeling. In this way, instead of using food to mask a need or a feeling, you have an opportunity to make a wiser choice.

Our psychological relationships to food are complex and if you think you can control your mind through actions and will-power alone you are probably underestimating the power of your mind. However, you can harness the power of your mind to change your conversations in your head so that you encourage tolerance, compassion and acceptance of yourself, and not judgement and self loathing. There will be times when you eat because you are emotionally hungry, tired, bored… and it’s ok. Life’s not all or nothing. Black and white. There is grey.

Psychological hunger is not the enemy. Eating is physiological and psychological, and if you only focus on calories and what you put on your plate, you may be neglecting something deeper and more important to your health that is within you: the pleasure of eating and life. Remember the Vitamin of Pleasure. Pleasure of eating and pleasure in life and living. So dive beneath your hunger, and look to see what lies there.