This question is very important and I don't think the answers so far reflect an appreciation of how critical this issue as it relates to overcoming emotional eating. To overcome emotional eating it is ESSENTIAL to learn to listen to your body in order to learn to differentiate between physical hunger and emotional hunger, not to listen simply to external rules about how long it should be between meals. When you are focusing on setting and following external rules about when you SHOULD eat, you are following a diet mentality.
I took the Shrink Yourself online course when I was 44 and learned there that I had never really understood the difference between physical and emotional hunger--- I often was not consciously feeling emotional when I was experiencing emotional hunger--- so I just thought I was hungry.
If you ate a good meal it is unlikely that you will get physically hungry within an hour, although it is possible if the meal had little fat or protein and you have been active. So yes, if it's only an hour, you should be skeptical that it's really physical hunger.
What helped me overcome emotional eating was that EVERYTIME I wanted to eat, no longer when I had last eaten, I paused and listened to my body. I felt in my stomach to see how full I was, whether there were any physical sensations of hunger in my stomach (physical hunger), or whether I just "wanted to eat" and felt the hunger in my mouth (emotional hunger tends to feel from the "neck up"). I'd check whether I was interested in eating healthy food like brocolli (a sign of physical hunger), or if only certain foods, usually sweet ones or fatty ones would do (a sign of emotional hunger.) I'd check whether I had the urge to eat quickly (another clue to emotiona hunger.)
Physical hunger comes on gradually and slowly. Emotional hunger comes on quickly.
Physical hunger can be satisfied by any food. Emotional hunger wants to be satisfied by something in particular.
Physical hunger is experienced in the stomach.
Emotional hunger tends to be felt above the neck, often the tongue or mouth "wants food."
Physical hunger doesn't tend to go away if you get busy or start having fun, you might not notice it for awhile, but when you check back in with your stomach, it is still there.
Emotional hunger can go away just as fast as it comes, without having eaten anything. So sometimes postponing eating is the thing to do-- often getting through an impulse to eat means you will then do fine. (Although sometimes emotional hunger can hang on for quite awhile if the emotional needs are still unmet.)
Here is one of many articles that further helps differentiate between the two: www.shedyourweight.com/how_to_distinguish_
SW 8/1/08 229.
| current weight: 153.0