Hidden Hungers

We have been sold this idea that food a struggle. That there are some people who struggle with it and there are some people who don’t, and you have to be strong and you have to have willpower for food not to be a struggle.

We tell ourselves that the only way to overcome this struggle I to work harder, right? What happens is you have all these people running harder and harder on this hamster wheel that is getting them nowhere and constantly feeling like it’s their fault. It’s a lie – What’s happening is all this energy is being spent in the wrong direction.

When we think of hunger, we often think of in relation to food as fuel. But hunger can be both psychological and physiological. Hunger can present itself as a way to communicate any unmet needs by your body.

Today, let’s explore the hidden hungers many individuals experience, and how you can nurture these forms of hunger in a compassionate, kind way.


Although they are 2 separate concepts, they all interact and influence one another!


Overwhelm is a feeling and it is related to our thoughts, our beliefs and the stories we tell ourselves in relation to food and eating behaviours.


When you are feeling too busy and your schedule is too crowded that you have way too many thoughts going on inside your head.

Over eating:

It’s the easy reaction to both overwhelm and overload. Over eating is a natural response and short term coping mechanism.

–> These 3 Os are what set the stage for understanding what hidden hunger truly means.


“We eat for a reason.”

We tend to forget that eating is vital. EVERY human eats. Regardless of the reason, whether its emotional eating, stress eating, whatever it is you want to label it as, there is a reason you are eating and sometimes it isn’t for fuel.

Hidden hungers: a term used to describe hungers that are really common, triggered by an unmet need of some sort that is not related to fuel.

We live in a society where it is so easy to use food as a tool to fulfil this unmet need, because for many, it’s convenient and accessible.

Types of hidden hungers:

  1. Hunger for compassion
  2. Hunger for emotional effectiveness
  3. Hunger for rest
  4. Hunger for self-care
  5. Hunger for stress relief

Example – Let’s look at emotional eating:

We are all familiar with stress eating or having emotions that you just don’t feel like you have the bandwidth to deal with at the moment, even though you might be able to handle them perfectly well on a different day. There’s a reach for food because it can either satisfy/calm the intense overwhelm of emotions, or food can be used as a means to avoid feeling/addressing specific emotions.

Now on top of this, if you are feeling an overwhelm of these emotions, such as stress, you are likely skipping out on sleep. Because of this, you feel exhausted and now you really don’t have the bandwidth to deal with emotions in the way you usually would. We get all tangled up in a web of unmet needs that lead us to being hungry for things that have nothing to do with food. This could be: sleep, social interactions, relaxation etc.

It can be hard to identify when hunger is related to food or not. To help you, imagine you are using a camera:

  • When you notice you are feeling hungry, it’s easy for us to zoom in too much on one part of the behavior, such as eating.
  • Try look at the situation from a wide lens, this way you will focus on the situation as a whole and acknowledge other contributing factors to your hunger, as opposed to hyper focusing on the action of eating or feeling hungry.
  • When we hyper focus, it distracts you from seeing the real issue.

Once you have zoomed out, you can get clear on the things that you are really hungry for such as: rest, compassion or stress relief.


“Self blame is a dead end.”

You hear me talk about compassion A LOT in my blogs and in my podcasts. But honestly, it’s so true. We are so so hard on ourselves all the time and we set ourselves up with so many unrealistic expectations that it dehumanizes our experience.

Compassion is the opposite of the all or nothing mindset. When we look at our situation from a wide lens, we want to do so without blaming ourselves for using food to cope. We don’t want to shame ourselves or beat ourselves down.

The goal is to seek to better understand what it is you needed in that moment. Explore how and why food was helpful and supportive for you in that difficult moment?

The funny thing is that I know you know this. Most of us know this when we are applying this to other people. BUT when it comes to applying compassion to ourselves, we see it as though we are such horrible human beings, undeserving of self-compassion. But the thing is, the way you transform your relationship with food is by growing and changing. And the way you grow through change is through curiosity. You can’t have curiosity if you have already decided that the problem is you and that you suck.


  • Asking yourself “what do I need?” – when you are feeling hunger that is not related to a physical need for fuel, take out your wide lens and try to look at the big picture from an objective point of view. Try and identify if there is potentially a need that is not being met, and how is food playing a role in meeting or avoiding that need temporarily?
  • Promote yourself to CEO: We all deserve to be the CEO – we are the CEO of our well-being and yet we aren’t. Diet culture takes that title away from us. I feel really strongly that if I’m not making those decisions from the place where I’m in charge, I’m being dragged around by somebody else’s, aka diet mentality.
  • Take a quiz: Dr. Melissa McCreery has developed a quiz that help you identify any patterns in your hidden hungers and the steps you can take to address them, so they are no longer debilitating: https://toomuchonherplate.com/hidden-hungers-quiz/


The first phase to reconnecting with yourself is coming home to your body. Start to identify your body’s needs and desires from inside out, instead of taking stuff in from the outside and trying to apply it to yourself. This usually shifts everything and distracts us from the bigger issue. Give yourself permission to want and to not want certain things by making choices that will meet the needs in the different spheres of your life.

Looking to find Food Freedom but don’t know where to start?

Check out my FREE Class to learn more about my Guilt Free Method so that you can find food freedom and feel good in your body.

🎙 Access the full PODCAST episode here!🎙

Hear me talk more about this topic on this week’s podcast episode! Click the links below to listen:

Need support?👇

The Balanced Practice is a team of professionals specialized in eating disorder outpatient treatment, disordered eating. Our mission is to help as many folks heal their relationship with food and their bodies so they can live happily outside of diet culture!

We strive to provide evidence based nutrition counselling to support you, or your loved one, in achieving full recovery. Schedule a connection call now.

Marie-Pier Pitre-D’Iorio, RD, B.Sc.Psychology
Lead Registered Dietitian and Founder of  The Balanced Practice

Eating disorders are complex illnesses | The Balanced Practice Inc | Ottawa, ON

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post!

Eating disorders are complex illnesses | The Balanced Practice Inc | Ottawa, ON

If you are looking for more support from our team - We are happy to help

Book a free connection call

Join our Monthly Workshop

The Joy of eating | The Balanced Practice Inc | Ottawa, ON

Every month, The Balanced Practice offers a low-cost workshop on topics related to eating disorders/disordered eating. Check out the next one coming up!

Learn more
The Joy of eating | The Balanced Practice Inc | Ottawa, ON