What Are You Really Hungry For? Beyond Food


Spritual Hunger | Why We Are Hungry

Have you ever been half way through your meal and realized that you are full, but continued to clean your plate anyway?

beyond-food-what-are-you-hungry-forAnd then maybe proceeded to go back for seconds or right to the dessert because, well, it’s there.

Then that “stuffed” feeling kicks in followed by the regret and self-flagellating thoughts around eating too much – once again.

For many, meals can feel like a constant tug of war between “I shouldn’t” versus “I want”.

“I shouldn’t eat more because I know I’m full, but I want to keep eating because….”

This is where it gets hazy.

2 Main Reasons Why We Overeat

Occasional overeating or emotional eating is a part of normal eating. It’s the frequency with which someone turns to these patterns that indicates a deeper issue. If this tendency is more chronic then occasional, then it’s time to ask yourself: What am I really hungry for?

Every Monday at Green Mountain I teach a class to arriving participants about the physical, emotional and spiritual hungers that may trigger the desire to eat when not hungry.

1 Physical Overeating

Physically we may overeat due to stress hormone imbalances, health conditions, or simply not eating well-balanced meals throughout the day, which may lead to malnourishment (hello cravings).

2  Emotional Overeating

Emotional overeating may be caused by the desire to self soothe or to numb out one’s feelings – typically the uncomfortable ones such as sadness, loneliness, anger, guilt, frustration, etc…you get the drift.

But it’s the spiritual hunger that sparks the most dialogue in class.

What Is Spiritual Hunger?

Spiritual hunger is about feeling disconnected from a sense of purpose, fulfillment, joy, and/or passion for one’s life. This type of hunger may show up as depression – the experience of enduring rather than thriving in life. A feeling of survival mode or a “flat-line”, as I call it. Food can serve to anesthetize a person from this suffering – from feeling that that void.

Even though spiritual hunger is not a food or willpower issue, diets are often the go-to solution in an attempt to gain control over what feels uncontrollable.

“Using food and/or diets to deal with spiritual hunger is like putting a bandage on a hemorrhaging wound that won’t stop bleeding.”

It’s bound to fail unless the source of the wound is addressed.

How Do You Know If You Are Grappling With Spiritual Hunger?

the-best-way-out-is-through-robert-frostOne way is to write out a list of the day’s “I should” versus the “I wants”. What does that list look like? Is it balanced or imbalanced? If it tips the scales on the “I should”, then ask yourself:

  • What are my sources of joy in life?

  • Who and what do I feel connected to?

  • What am I passionate about?

  • What gives my life meaning?


If these questions leave your mind blank, then consider using them as a springboard from which to explore.

Many of the women who come to Green Mountain seem to be on a similar quest to discover the answers to these very questions. On some level they know it is time to pay attention to that deeper hunger and to learn how to better feed their spirit for optimal well-being.

Are You Seeking A weight loss program that explores the emotional and behavioral issues around food, weight and eating?

4 responses to “What Are You Really Hungry For? Beyond Food”

  1. Harriet Krivit says:

    Subconscious drives should be another topic added. Otherwise the above would be a lot more achievable. I put compulsive overeating in the same category as many physical conditions/afflictions which take over behavior despite all efforts to control or manage them. Acceptance of “eating spasms” whenever they happen is part of the fact that eating food (all food) can never be given up ..and sends me to a magic place despite all the sensible solutions.

  2. Erin Risius says:

    Agreed – I find that it is our subconscious that drives consistently eating when not hungry – whether it’s out of habit or for coping with the ‘what’s up’ in life – or both. There is very little logic involved as much as a visceral impulse taking hold, but this impulse can be managed with awareness training. And yes, that immediate feeling can certainly feel ‘magical’ – at least for a little bit hence the drive to go there…

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic…

  3. Francois Theberge says:

    This is a very good post! And quite timely too; I’m working on a long form post on the (practical) neuroscience of cravings and I confess I did not consider the spiritual aspect.

    I plan to remedy that.

    I am willing to bet my kingdom for 3 black beans that men would also immensely benefit from asking themselves these same 4 questions.

    Once again, great post!

  4. Erin Risius says:

    Thank you Francois – and yes I agree men could benefit as well…!

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About the Author

Erin Risius, MA, LPC

Erin Risius, MA, LPC, is a former program director of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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