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How can I tell if I’m hungry for something other than food?

Deciphering hunger signals may take some practice. But “the body has its own wisdom and can tell us a lot about what it requires if we are able to listen,” suggests pediatrician Jan Chozen Bays, MD.

In her book Mindful Eating, she describes something called “heart hunger,” which has little to do with food. “Most unbalanced relationships with food are caused by being unaware of heart hunger,” she offers. “No food can ever satisfy this form of hunger. To satisfy it, we must learn how to nourish our hearts.”

Most of us need to learn to identify heart hunger before we can satisfy it. Chozen Bays recommends the following exercises:

  • Make a list of the foods you eat when you are sad or lonely.
  • Notice when you feel an impulse to have a snack or a drink between meals.
  • Stop and observe the emotions and thoughts you were having just before the impulse arose.
  • Then, if you have the snack or drink, pay attention. Does anything change?

If you notice that what you’re really feeling is loneliness, try addressing it directly by calling a friend. Or if you discover that you’re genuinely sad, wrap yourself in a blanket and feel sad. This is how you feed heart hunger — by giving the heart what it really wants.

Finally, if you discover that what you’re hungry for really is food, then put some food on a plate, sit down, and enjoy a meal that will nourish you on every level.

This was excerpted from “9 Common Questions Answered About Hunger Cravings” which was published in Experience Life.

Jessie Sholl

Jessie Sholl is an Experience Life contributing editor.

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