The Hunger Game: What to Learn to Play?

It’s 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon.  You’re sitting at your desk and you catch yourself staring at the clock as the minutes seem to feel like hours passing by.  You’re loosing focus and could swear your stomach has suddenly turned into a lurching vortex of emptiness just waiting to be filled with some snacky goodness!

Sound familiar?

Now if I were to ask you….do you think you are actually hungry or just bored?  What would you say?

I’m chiming in today to teach you how to tell the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger by playing the “Hunger Game”.

What’s the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger you ask?

Well emotional hunger means you turn to food either to avoid uncomfortable emotions or to heighten pleasurable ones.  It means you eat based on how you feel in your mind rather than how you feel in your body.

Some Emotional Hunger Feelings:

  • you eat because you are lonely or sad and are needing comfort
  • you eat because you are bored
  • you eat because you are with your friends and are feeling excited and carefree
  • you eat to try to soothe anxious or depressed feelings
  • you eat to fill an aching heart
  • You eat because you are frustrated or angry

Whereas physical hunger means you eat when your body signals to you that you are in fact, hungry.  And it means that you stop eating when you are satisfied and before you have successfully put yourself in to a food coma.

Some Physical Hunger Sensations:

  • when your stomach growls and gets that hollow sensation
  • when your body feels weak and energy goes down
  • when your blood sugar gets low and you feel shaky
  • when you feel lightheaded or faint

So what will learning to listen to your body do for you?


What that means for you is that you’ll feel more in control of your eating and less dependent on food to “help” your moods and emotions.

By listening to your physical hunger signals, you can determine how hungry or full you really are.  With practice, you’ll be able to pinpoint where your body is at any given moment.  In saying this, it is important to notice when your body is beginning….key word “beginning”… to tell you that it needs sustenance so that you don’t fall in to the ravenous, oh so dangerous “hangry” state.

By doing so, you will train yourself to start eating before you’re so hungry you are completely out of control with your food choices and method of inhaling and to stop eating before you are about to explode.  But perhaps most importantly practicing mindful eating will help you to not turn to food when you are not actually hungry but are in fact bored, upset, anxious or depressed.

Because you know that’s a viscous cycle….so let me show you how to end that cycle and have some fun while doing it!

Enter….The Hunger Game!

Let me clarify by saying I’m not talking about undergoing top secret weapons training to “eliminate” off your colleagues and friends (though if left to the devices of my hangry state, this doesn’t seem that far off….just kidding, kinda)….I’m talking about a simple, helpful game that you can play, all by yourself, even in a busy restaurant.

Here’s How to Play:

See if you can be the slowest eater at the table.  No one has to know you are even doing this, but try your hardest to be the last one to finish your meal.  If you are by yourself, set your timer on your phone for 20 minutes and make your meal take up the entire duration.

Periodically check in with yourself throughout your meal to see if you are honoring how full you are by setting down your fork and taking a few breaths.  Is your stomach still growling?  Give yourself a few minutes to really pay attention.

Use an end of meal ritual to symbolize that you have consciously made the choice to be finished.  You are in control and you say when you are done.  You can do this by putting a napkin over your plate, asking your server to pack the rest of your food up to take home or by ordering a hot tea.

This game is like any other game, the more you play the better you get.  So yes, at first it will take some brain power and focused attention but after awhile, you will be doing these things automatically.

Now you may be thinking, but what do I do now when I’m feeling sad or bored if I’m not eating?

There are lots of other ways to channel this energy.  First of all, when you get that feeling like you want to eat, take a minute to ask yourself, “am I really hungry?  or am I just trying to sooth an emotional need?”

If the answer is emotional support than you can try one of these things instead:

  1. GET UP, if you are sitting down.  Move your body by going for a walk, doing a few sun salutations or conquering a few sets of stairs!
  2. Have a big glass of water then do some deep breathing for 10 minutes.  Sit comfortable, close your eyes and breathe.  Slowly in and out, really focusing on the way the air feels on your nostrils.  If thoughts come forward, notice them, breathe them in and then set them free with a big exhale.
  3. Call a friend!  If you are needing support sometimes the best remedy is to lean on those people you love the most.  Call a friend and have a chat.  You don’t need to carry your emotional baggage by yourself so take a load off.
  4. Do your workout.  If you haven’t done your exercise for the day yet now would be the ideal time to do it!  Get those endorphin’s flowing and you’ll be back to a settled state in no time.
  5. Honor your emotions with a little self care.  Have a hot bath with epsom salts and your favorite calming essential oil, get a massage or pretty up your nails with a pedicure.
  6. Go outside.  Nature has so many amazing healing properties.  Take your shoes off and feel the ground, lay on your back and look up at the towering tree branches above you or go for a hike and feel the wind through your hair.  This one is a top pick for me.  There’s nothing quite like the solitude that I feel when I’m immersed in the natural world.  Pair the outdoors with some mindful breathing and it’s like magic.

So there you have it.  Win the hunger game and you can kiss your days as a food slave good bye!



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