Feeling anxious about feeling hungry

iStock_000001190267Small

Feeling anxious about feeling hungry

If you’ve ever tried to diet and gave up before you intended, the chances are that feelings of anxiety or agitation played a part in you giving up. There are very good reasons for this, some from the way our biology has evolved and some from our individual psychological make-up.

Hunger naturally makes us feel uneasy

The Anxiety System in the body evolved to warn us of danger in the environment. For our ancestors, lack of food signalled danger of starvation. Although we now live in conditions of over-supply of food, our basic biology remains driven by anxiety reduction.

Feeling hungry can make us feel anxious even though we have plenty of food available.

Not all of us feel equally anxious about feeling hungry

As a species we are hard-wired to react to food shortages with anxiety. The more hungry we get the more likely we are to feel agitated or anxious. This anxiety is valuable because it focuses our attention on seeking out food, but people vary a great deal in the point at which this anxiety is triggered.

Some people seem to be relatively oblivious to food and may miss meals, particularly if they are absorbed in an activity. Others are highly anxious about having sufficient food and may carry food around rather than risk feeling hungry. Everyone else is somewhere between the two.

Seeing hunger as an emergency

If we do see hunger as something we can’t tolerate, we are likely to take steps to avoid it. Psychologists have long established that when you avoid something you are afraid of, your fear of it increases. A vicious circle is set up where the more you avoid being hungry, the more you fear it and the more you fear it the more you avoid it. Fortunately there are well-established ways of overcoming this type of fear.

When you overcome your fear of mild hunger, weight loss becomes much easier.

How do I deal with feeling anxious about feeling hungry?

Those of us who become unduly anxious about feeling hungry need to learn that mild hunger is not to be feared and indeed, is to be embraced as a valuable tool in losing weight.

To learn how to deal with anxiety directly, find which of the techniques in the free download  “Anxiety and how to manage it” works best for you. This is available on the Appetite Retraining website. Notice whenever you feel anxious or agitated, and instead of reaching for food, use one of those techniques to deal with the anxious feeling directly.

The results of dealing with the anxiety directly

Benefit # 1 You’ll be able to eat less and therefore lose weight.
Benefit # 2 You’ll find it easier to discriminate physical hunger from an anxiety-
driven desire to eat.
Benefit # 3 You’ll discover that you can regulate your emotions, and discover a
greater sense of self-control and self-confidence.

Diets intensify anxiety

Note that diets which restrict calories, particularly Very Low Calorie Diets regularly activate the anxiety associated with the threat of insufficient food. This means that the anxiety system in the body puts increasing amounts of pressure on you to eat and results in you being highly preoccupied with food, making sticking to the diet all the harder.

For more information about the psychology of eating, appetite and weight loss please sign up for my regular newsletter 

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *