Have you ever noticed that when you eat dessert at the end of a meal, you aren’t physically hungry for it -but you still eat it? You may even feel full – but you still eat it. This desire to eat something sweet after a meal, almost as though you aren’t finished unless you have that sweet thing, is a form of psychological hunger.
Psychological hunger is not caused by an actual, physical pain or need for food to survive. Psychological hunger is caused by a desire to eat either out of habit, because you see good food around you, because you are emotional or upset, or because it tastes good and is “fun.”
When you are attempting to lose weight by eating less, it is important to learn how to recognize physical hunger and distinguish it from psychological hunger. Physical hunger shows itself with physical feelings of emptiness in your stomach, rumbling accompanied by weakness. Psychological hunger is simply the desire to eat, accompanied by no physical proof that it is necessary at that moment.
The notion that you can diet by simply ignoring your psychological hunger underestimates the power that your mind exerts over your actions. Instead of seeing pounds melting off your body, you see the intensity of your psychological hunger increasing until it is too difficult to deny.
How do you control psychological hunger? First you must recognize the difference between your physical hunger and psychological hunger. Look for triggers to your psychological hunger and develop strategies to either limit your exposure to these triggers or come up with alternative behaviors for dealing with them.
In some cases it may be necessary to seek professional help to uncover the causes of your psychological hunger. Unmet emotional needs, stress, anger, depression, boredom and simple habit can cause psychological hunger to spiral out of control. The complexity of the issue often makes it difficult to unravel on your own.