Dealing with hunger and cravings can be difficult. It’s important to realize that many cravings are the result of behavior and habits, not your body’s hunger or actual need for food.
A craving is something your mind wants, whereas hunger is something your body needs. It’s important to learn how to recognize the difference.
Hunger is the physical need for food. It’s the result of a chemical change in the body. Here are some ways to identify hunger:
- Hunger doesn’t go away, but intensifies over time.
- Hunger only goes away if you eat.
- Physical indicators such as a growling stomach.
- You may get grouchy, lightheaded, sleepy or sluggish.
If you are hungry, eat!
But if you continue to eat after you are full or not hungry, then you are just following your food desires.
It’s a Craving
Cravings are the desire for food, often a specific type of food. You can identify a craving by the following:
- You are not physically hungry but want to eat something.
- Thoughts of eating go away when you are distracted by other things.
- The craving does not become more intense as time goes by.
- You feel emotional about eating a certain type of food.
- Smelling certain scents triggers an urge for a particular food. (We all know how Cinnabon gets customers at the mall!)
- You are craving the comfort of certain food types. For example: warm, cold, sweet, crunchy, salty or creamy.
- You are bored, stressed or have other emotions.
How to Deal With Cravings
The following are some suggestions to keep you on track and avoid eating when you are not hungry, eventually allowing you to change your pattern of behavior:
When you find yourself craving a certain food, think about WHY you want it. Are you really hungry, or is it a desire? Think about how you will feel if you eat it.
For example: We often crave the sweetness of dessert after eating a meal, but this is really just a behavior we have become accustomed to, not something our body really needs.
Distract yourself. If you’re having an intense craving, distract yourself by getting busy with something else for a while. Walk the dog, play with the cat or your kids, phone a friend. Whatever you choose, try not to think about food for a while. When you come back, you can decide if you still really want it.
Give in. But have a plan of attack so it doesn’t turn into a binge. There are times when you really want something and have been craving it for days and nothing else will do. It can be better to give in and enjoy that piece of chocolate cake you’re craving, but only if you plan the when and where to have it. Remember you are the one in charge—not the food! Commit to be diligent about the rest of your meals and exercise regime so that you can make it a special event and enjoy it guilt-free.
Know yourself. Some people just know they have little control when it comes to certain foods. For them, even the best-intentioned “taste” of their trigger food can turn into uncontrolled plunge off the deep end. If you feel your cravings are out of control, you may be better off changing your behavior and simply not having certain types of food around, or even giving certain foods up forever. It sounds extreme, but believe it or not, changing behavior is easier than trying to control it.
For example: Controlling behavior would be giving up fast food for a month to fit into a dress. Changing your behavior is acknowledging that fast food is terrible for you and choosing to give it up forever and eat healthier foods instead.
Keep it simple. When learning new eating behaviors, it may be easier to stick to the same foods for one or two meals for a few days.
For example: Have the same breakfast or pack the same lunch for the week. This will cut down on preparation time and having to think about what you are going to have for every meal. Also, plan and prepare meals ahead of time! You will more likely eat in moderation if you have thought out healthy meals and snacks in advance.
“Emotional eating is the abandoning of free will and using food as a drug, instead of nourishment. Every time we decide what to eat and why, we defeat emotional eating and strengthen our autonomy.”
—Keith Ablow, MD
GOLO was designed to help you overcome the physical and emotional obstacles that have caused you to gain weight or the failure to lose weight in the past.