So many of us have no idea what hunger *really* feels like. Above are some distinctions between physical and emotional hunger. This is very useful if you tend toward eating when struggling with a tough emotion. However, I think there is a third kind of hunger we don't give much lip service to. This is a type of hunger that occurs when you have been restricting.
"Wait!," you say, "My problem is binge eating! I don't restrict!" Not so fast. Do you swear off sweets (or chips) the day after a binge? Do you resolve to "eat right" and thus hardly eat at all? Are you eating fewer than 2000-2500 calories per day on a "good day?" Then you are restricting. In fact, this restriction (no matter how severe or mild) is what creates this third type of hunger.
I call it "Survivor Hunger." This is the hunger that flips on when you are around food or start eating after several hours (or days or weeks) of restricting. The tricky thing is, it ALSO can feel urgent and overwhelming and can leave you feeling guilty or out of control (even though it is your body kicking into survivor mode. "There's food! We're allowed to eat?! Eat it ALLLLLL, it may never come again!!")
The unfortunate reality is that many restrictive eaters and binge eaters alike will misinterpret this as "emotional hunger," ignore or otherwise distract themselves from it, shame themselves for it, and continue to deepen disordered eating.
The answer? Before you check for physical vs. emotional hunger, ask yourself if you're eating enough and eating regularly throughout the day. If not, fix that first. You won't be able to listen and follow your hunger cues any other way.