Ever been to a buffet where you’ve filled your plate again and again? Ever notice that you can be bored or feel ‘full’ after eating a meal and then suddenly feel hungry when dessert is brought out? If you’ve answered yes, and who wouldn’t, then you’ve experienced first hand the difference between hunger and a craving.
What’s the difference between hunger and a craving?
Physiological hunger generally comes on slowly and may be accompanied by physical symptoms such as a grumbling stomach, feeling a little unfocused and dizzy as a result of low blood sugar. This is your body’s way of telling you it needs fuel – you need to eat. Cravings on the other hand are different than hunger in that they are more directed to a specific food, taste or texture. They push you to eat even when your body doesn’t need more fuel (food energy). If you are feeling ‘hungry’ one or two hours after eating, then you’re probably experiencing a craving. A craving results in more radical behaviour, the motivation to follow the sensation is stronger.
There are different ideas on how best to deal with cravings. Researchers believe that the life of a craving is about 20 minutes – meaning if you can wait it out, it will pass. Many times the craving passes only temporarily and may return leaving you to deal with it all over again. It’s best to wait it out with some kind of distraction – answer some emails, pick up that book you’ve started to read etc.
If you’re having a craving, ask yourself ‘am I really hungry?’ If it’s been 3-4 hours since your last meal, then you’re probably hungry and should eat something, otherwise you’re probably having an emotionally based craving. Ask yourself if it is because you’re bored, lonely or anxious. If this is the case, you need to find out why and then target that need.
People don’t plan to fail but often fail to plan
Planning for ‘treats’ may help to avoid cravings or at least avoid them from getting out of control. Denying yourself is never a good idea as extremes tend to lead to extremes. Having a reasonable portion of a favourite food, a couple of times per week will help to avoid cravings from getting the best of you and will help to prevent binging. Studies also suggest that we often mistake thirst for hunger, so try drinking a big glass of water and waiting to see if the craving passes.
Remember that there is room for all foods as part of a healthy diet.