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Feeding the “Emotional Hunger”

30 Oct

During my psychotherapy training, we discussed the concept of “emotional hunger” on a number of occasions, primarily in the context of eating disorders. I liked the phrase, it resonated with me immediately and has stayed with me ever since. While I have never suffered from a diagnosable eating disorder myself, I (as most people) know that I eat differently depending on my emotional status and I am prone to over-eating when I am stressed. Not stressed as in busy – I can actually go for a vey long time without eating and the slightest feeling of hunger when I am busy. I mean the kind of stress related to boredom, loneliness, disconnectedness and purposelessness. I hate those feelings and I have turned to food for comfort in those situations. Not in the oh-so-hilarious “Bridget Jones style” – tubs of ice cream, bags of crisps or bottles of wine. But enough to qualify for a pattern. And at the same time, when I am happy, when I am in flow, when I spend my time making a meaningful contribution, when I am learning, growing and developing my own skill set, when I am with people, when I can feel my own impact – food is the last thing on my mind.

Emotional hunger comes is different forms and does not always end in “fridge therapy”. It is also not always related to an eating disorder. It’s actually perfectly human and perfectly normal. At work, at home, with friends or family, or on our own – this nagging feeling that something is missing, something isn’t quite right, that we hunger for something we are not getting can be overwhelmingly powerful, can turn the most disciplined of us into angry lemmings. Some people turn to food and alcohol, some chose cigarettes, some go for a run. Compensation is powerful.

Two great ways to distinguish physical hunger from emotional hunger, is: a) emotional hunger starts really suddenly and immediately with full force and b) it’s usually not located in your stomach.

I have not thought about this for a while. Because, in the past 12 months I have not really felt emotional hunger. I have rarely overeaten – and as a result, I have actually lost some weight. But while emotional hunger may not have registered as such very often, I would be lying if I had not felt it sometimes. But the trick was that over the past 12 months I have managed to introduce some new habits and re-activate some old habits into my daily life and into my arsenal of coping mechanisms that I would activate the second I would feel a certain pang.

When you read about “how to tackle emotional hunger“, the advice usually includes “calling a friend“, “reading a book” and “meditation“. Friends, ok. Number two and three won’t work for me. They might very well work for others, but the last thing I can cope with when facing emotional hunger is reading and sitting still.

The following is a list of new/old things that I do on a regular basis (habits) to not let emotional hunger develop or that I turn to in moments of crisis:

  • Core, weight and circular training. This was a massive surprise to myself. But when I discovered that and joined an outdoor sports group last November (yep, talk about good timing to pick up outdoor training) I had no idea how much I would love pushing myself that way. How much I would love kicking the sh*t out of an invisible ninja opponent, lifting sandbags and how much I would even embrace the eternally frustrating and also quite hilarious exercise that is “the pull up”. I swear, I simply don’t have certain muscles! But feeling my body getting stronger has been super powerful. And whenever I don’t feel like going to the gym (which is most of the time), I do these home workouts by Popsugar Fitness. Cheesy as they are, they work you out!
  • Yoga. I started doing yoga when I was 14 (before it was cool) but have lost it as a routine along the way. I picked it up again this year, I am using the Yoga With Adriene Youtube videos (she is quite adorable) at home at least twice a week and yes, I would cancel a date for an hour with Adriene.
  • Podcasts. I have become a total addict over the years. To feed my brain and to get lost in good stories, I love listening to currently 7 different podcasts that I can whole-heartedly recommend:
  • Writing. This blog. And any other blog posts I have written on other platforms this year.
  • Music. Thank you Daniel Ek, for inventing Spotify.
  • Singing. Thank you Youtube for providing Karaoke versions for pretty much every song ever written. And err….sorry to my neighbours!
  • Talking to friends. I am in the fortunate/cursed position to have friends in many places that are far away from where I live. I wish I could see them all more often, but even talking to them is always such a treat that I would rather have them far away than not have them at all.
  • And when they aren’t available and the pang is too big, there is always Netflix to provide me with a temporary world to lose myself in.
  • Trips. Something to do more, but whether spontaneous or planned, changing my surroundings is always a good things as it keeps me on my toes and is a good cure for cabin fever that you can even get when living in Berlin.
  • Nuts. Amazing. I don’t really buy chocolate or other sweets anymore (the temptation is just too big), but I love nibbles.

Nothing here is revolutionary. And nothing here replaces therapy when it’s needed. Emotional hunger is a sign that something is missing. And while I have absolutely no reason to complain, sometimes something is missing. And this is the stuff that keeps my personal emotional hunger in check and me in touch with myself – with my body, my heart and my mind. It’s something I can do myself. And I owe it to myself to look after myself as best as I can.

Picture:  (CC0 license) via


Things I’ve learned in 2011 so far

11 May

I’ve clearly not thought this through. Launching a blog at a time when I barely have time to eat was a silly idea. But what I really didn’t see coming was people’s reactions which have really put a smile on my face but have also been causing me to stress and panic as it’s now time to write Blog No 2. And as with music and films, the second attempt is never really a hit, is it? So let’s get it over with pronto and then get to the Pulitzer-standard stuff. Ha!

So this is a super random collection of things I have learned (or is it learnt?) and discovered in 2011 so far: Facts, nuggets of wisdom, attitudes and objects. Most of this is pretty mundane stuff (lowering your expectations at this point, see). Enjoy!


You are what you eat. And you eat what’s in your fridge. So don’t buy crap.

Fashion & Beauty

Wearing a good dress in the office can work wonders and with the right pair of heels can get you through all sorts of difficult or boring days at work.

Falke make the best tights

Unless they are one-off fashion trends, cheap shoes are not worth their money and should be banned. It is worth spending money on shoes that you wear a lot.

Hydradermie Facials are like the most amazing thing ever and using a hot towel when cleaning your face is like an instant spa experience and a really nice daily treat. Somebody could have really told me about that earlier.


Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent‘ said Victor Hugo. That’s the clever bit. Music is also just really good innocent fun on tap. I firmly believe that after almost a year together, my iPhone knows me better than I know myself so I usually have the music selection set to random, in the hope that it picks the tracks that are just right for me at that moment in time. Works most of the time actually. Clever iPhone.


Is sometimes just that = work. It’s not your life, it’s part of it. So if it really pisses you off or stresses you out, just put it in a box and don’t let it ruin the rest of your (or your friends) life. Or: Attack it with a smile (I didn’t come up with this very useful little mantra, but I am using it a lot to refocus my mind).

Mad Men

If you haven’t already – Go out and buy it now. I am not kidding, what are you doing reading this rubbish? Leave the house now and don’t come back until you know who Don Draper is. Or is it Dick?


Spending time with yourself can be really nice (if you are a nice person). Taking time to do things like having a bath, reading a book, doing your nails properly, watching Mad Men, going for a walk or going through your wardrobe as if it was somebody else’s and finding new outfit combinations (yes, really) can be really relaxing and grounding. We all run around like headless muppets most of the time and then spend our free time with other people, which isn’t wrong. But spending time with yourself should feature every now and then as well. Who knows, you might just enjoy it. And if you’re not a nice person, get off my blog NOW.


They are amazing. They pick you up, keep you together, bring out the best in you, put things into perspective. But

1) in most cases, they are not psychics. So if you need them, reach out to them and ask them for a little bit of TLC, bottles of wine, a lift to the airport, 30 (not 120) minutes to empty your head about a problem at work that has been doing your head in for 3 weeks – whatever it is that you need. Real friends will never judge you or think badly of you for asking for help. Most of us are closer to our friends than we are to our families and we need a bit of looking after every now and then. It’s a basic need and most of us are more than happy to give support and advice, so why not ask for it every now and then?

2) they need looking after too. Friendships don’t come for free and, like any other relationship, need a bit of maintenance every now and then. When is the last time you sent an email to a friend simply to ask how they are doing? Or you actually picked up the phone to say Happy Birthday in person (not sent a card / text / email / tweet)? We can probably all think of a friend who has gone through a tough time and although we were thinking about it, we never actually reached out to them and taken some time to give them a break. It’s so easy to send a text and say “Let me know if you need something”, but may I refer to point 1) at this moment: most of us don’t like asking for help.

Oh my…, this has suddenly gone all deep.

Better stop now.