Is Craving Food an Emotion?

Medically Reviewed on 3/22/2022
Is craving food an emotion
Craving foods can be a response to stress and emotions and is also referred to as emotional eating or emotional hunger.

Craving foods can be a response to stress and emotions, such as anxiety, anger, or sadness.

  • You may be going through health issues, problems at work, financial loss, or troubles in relationships.
  • To deal with the stress and negative emotions that follow, you feel a sudden rush to reach the pantry and eat something, especially junk food or sugary foods to eat.
  • Also called emotional eating or emotional hunger, the craving hits you suddenly, and you feel an overwhelming and urgent need to satisfy it.

5 signs of emotional eating

To avoid emotional eating, you need to first identify whether you are feeling hungry or it is just a need to feel good after an outburst of emotion.

Here are some signs of emotional eating that you can watch out for.

  1. Craving specific comfort foods, such as fried foods, junk food, or sugary snacks
  2. Mindless eating, such as enjoying a bag of chips without remembering how it was
  3. Lack of satisfaction despite eating a lot
  4. Eating hurriedly without realizing whether you are full or not
  5. Craving comes from your head and not as a signal from your stomach

4 ways to deal with emotional eating

Emotional eating is most likely to make you shameful or guilty later when you feel better after satisfying your cravings. However, the urge to eat without paying attention to what you eat results in unnecessary weight gain. This can throw off your weight loss journey and further increase your feelings of guilt.

Here are a few tips to help you deal with the problem of emotional eating:

  1. Pause when the cravings arise
    • Do not think that cravings can overpower you every time as they have done in the past. Be aware that you have more power over your cravings than you think. 
    • Though emotional eating appears mindless eating, taking a moment to pause and reflect when you are hit with cravings can help you make the right decision.
  2. Learn to accept your feelings
    • Resorting to mindless eating and surrendering to cravings is an easy way to run away from the issues that you have been currently facing in your life. However, accepting how you feel is important. It helps you deal with troublesome emotions in different but healthy ways.
    • Not suppressing your emotions and paying attention to them can help them subside even the most painful feelings relatively quickly. You can take the help of a therapist or counselor to help you deal with the emotions in a better way than taking the help of comforting foods.
  3. Practice mindful eating
    • Mindful eating is paying attention to the taste, texture, smell, appearance, and sound of food while eating. It makes you stay focused on eating while you appreciate the various aspects of the food. It prevents you from overeating because your brain takes time to signal to the stomach that it is full, and it is time that you stop eating.
    • Mindful eating necessitates not watching television or looking at your smartphones to avoid getting distracted from what you are eating.
  4. Practice healthy habits
    • Exercise daily (at least 30 minutes five days per week)
    • Get enough sleep (between seven and nine hours daily)
    • Stay hydrated by drinking at least eight glasses of water
    • De-stress yourself by pursuing hobbies, taking a walk in the park, or listening to music
    • Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga
    • Stay in touch with family and friends


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Medically Reviewed on 3/22/2022
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HelpGuide. Emotional Eating and How to Stop It.

Mayo Clinic. Weight loss: Gain control of emotional eating.