How to deal with emotional hunger

When we eat to feel better or to relieve stress, we tend to eat junk food and sweets. Unfortunately, emotional eating doesn’t solve our emotional problems. It’s important to manage emotions and consume the same kidney-friendly food as usual.

Now that we are self-isolating, you might have to deal with mixed or negative feelings. It is important for you to be aware of any negative emotions like stress, loneliness, frustration or anxiety. Your psychological health is fundamental for your overall well-being, so manage your emotions properly:

  •  Keep your mind occupied with home activities instead of thinking too much
  • Stay focused and take good care of your mental and physical health
  • Try to see opportunities where others see problems
  • Always stay optimistic and keep a positive attitude
  • Express and share your positive attitude also when speaking to others
  • Stay in touch with friends and family via phone or digital communication channels
  • Filter the quantity and quality of information you absorb
  • Do not listen to or share information that is not confirmed by local health authorities

Avoid overeating and cravings 
Don’t let your emotions trick you and learn how to distinguish between real, physiological hunger and emotional hunger. Only eat when you really feel a physical need to do so and stop eating when you are full. In case your negative feelings are too overwhelming, or you cannot manage emotions, seek medical advice.

Emotional hunger vs. Physical hunger 
In case of emotional eating, you must start by identifying your personal triggers. What feelings or situations make you reach for comfort food?

Emotional hunger comes on suddenly

Physical hunger comes on gradually

Emotional hunger feels like it needs to be satisfied immediately

Physical hunger can wait

Emotional hunger craves specific comfort foods

Physical hunger is open to options – lots of things sound good

Emotional hunger I not satisfied with full stomach

Physical hunger stops when you´re full

Emotional eating triggers guilt, powerlessness and shame

Eating to satisfy physical hunger doesn´t make you feel bad about yourself

Nutrition and shopping advice to eat healthy 
Due to coronavirus prevention measures in dialysis centers, your treatment routine may change. Therefore, at present, it is critical that you stick to your diet and take care of your intake of fluids, potassium, and phosphorus. Here are some recommendations to manage your nutrition. There is no scientific evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the coronavirus (European Food Safety Authority, EFSA). You can still buy and consume the same kidney-friendly food as usual. 

  • Nevertheless, we recommend that you apply strict hygiene measures especially when handling raw food 
  • Wash your food, hands, kitchen surfaces and utensils, like knives and cutting boards, carefully with hot water and soap during food preparation 
  • Use different utensils, like knifes and cutting boards, for raw and cooked foods 
  • Cooking or heating food can be an additional safety measure as the virus is sensitive to heat 
  • Store fresh and perishable foods in your refrigerator so it lasts longer 
  • Make good use of your freezer to preserve some food for longer

Shopping guide - Some important tips 
If possible, you should not go shopping by yourself to lower the risk of infection. Ask your family or friends to help you or find a delivery service. Don’t neglect your diet and follow the recommendations given by your doctor or dietician. Here are a few points to consider: 

  • Plan properly and make a shopping list so nothing is forgotten 
  • Make sure you have enough supplies for 14 days 
  • Buy food with an extended shelf life or tinned food, but avoid processed foods 
  • Be careful with long-lasting products like beans or peas, as they are rich in phosphorus and potassium; consume only moderately and not in longer periods between treatments 

When getting food delivered to you, avoid direct contact with the person delivering the groceries. Keep the appropriate distance and avoid greetings that involve direct contact. After receiving the food, remove the packagings and discard them. You should wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before touching your food.

Recommendations for your shopping list: 

  • Vegetables: buy them either raw or frozen 
  • Carbohydrates: rice, pasta, bread (for freezing) should not be left out from your shopping list 
  • Meat & fish: if you choose to buy fresh meat and fish, freeze a portion and consume the fresh one within a couple of days 
  • Fruit: as fruit is perishable, buy fresh (and un-ripe), avoid fruit with a high potassium level like banana or kiwi, stock up on tinned fruit (always in its juice, avoid syrup) 
  • Eggs: should not be missing from your pantry; if you store them in your refrigerator they will last longer 
  • Dairy: Buy long-life milk. Among dairy products, the best option is cured cheese


Manage your emotions: Keep moving

At home, the secret is to stay active and enjoy everything you like to do, but never have time to do them. 

Activities you can do at home: 

  • Stay active. Work out at home. Try a virtual workout with a personal trainer or watch exercise videos available online. 
  • Organize your home. Do a thorough cleaning and organise your house to get rid of all the junk that is only taking up space at home. Take the opportunity to swap your winter clothes with your summer clothes, throw away what you no longer use or donate what can be enjoyed by those most in need. 
  • Improve your skills in the kitchen. Prepare meals worthy of a Michelin star for the whole family. If you need inspiration, you can visit websites or online cooking magazines, listen to podcasts or watch cooking videos or programmes. 
  • Watch TV series, films and programmes. Make the best of this break to relax and catch up on your favourite series. Watch the film you have wanted to see for so long. Review that show that makes you laugh. 
  • Improve your reading habits. Turn off any gadgets for a while and catch up on your reading. If you have children at home, define a reading routine to read a story before they fall asleep, teach them to read their first words, or establish a “reading moment”. 
  • Learn a new language. There are several free online courses. You can also use language sites and apps. Do a little research and you will find several options to choose from. 
  • Invest in your training. Take time to acquire or improve your knowledge in a certain area. Do that training that you have longed for. There are several certified online courses and training, and some of them are even free. 
  • Meditate. Being at home, working, minding the children and doing all the household chores sometimes makes it difficult to take time for ourselves. Before going to sleep or before the whole family wakes up, take a few minutes of your day to practice meditation. Learn to control anxiety and stress, caused by situations like those we are living in, and prioritize your well-being.