Cravings and hunger are two completely different things and not being able to tell the difference between which one you’re feeling can lead to trouble.
Hunger is simply a feeling caused by a lack of food. It can be a feeling of weakness if you haven’t eaten in along period or eaten enough to fuel you for whatever physical or mental activities you’ve been doing. This is your body telling you to that it needs to re-fuel and it shouldn’t be ignored. Even when trying to lose weight at no stage should you be starving yourself and suffering with feelings of hunger. Too many people think to lose weight they need to be hungry all the time, that’s completely untrue and can really mess up your metabolism.
Cravings on the other hand is your head wanting (not needing) something. Most of the time it will be something sweet with zero nutritional value. That’s where the problems start. While the odd treat can always be fit into a balanced diet, some people can lose the run of things and binge or subconsciously eat an excessive amount throughout a week. Cravings can be set off by a variety of things like sight, smell, routine and taste.
Sight: Ever gone up to pay for your petrol at a garage and all of a sudden you’re adding in a couple of bars of chocolate with the bill? With all those shiny colourful wrappers displayed right in front of the cash register it is impossible to not see them! That’s the idea! Hunger didn’t make you buy those bars it was a sudden craving that hit you and before you realize it you’ve walked out of the shop eating the sweets.
Smell: Ever been walking past a take-away or bakery and stopped dead in your tracks when the smell of food hit you? That’s why these places leave their windows open or have a vent pumping out the smell! It gets your attention and get your cravings fired up. There are even artificial scent machines stores like this can buy to pump out appealing smells to customers to get them craving their food!
Taste/routine: Some foods just go well together and it can easily happen that you might be eating or drinking something and you think of something that would be lovely with this! This ties in with routine and can vary by person. It could literally be anything from having a cup of tea and craving biscuits to having a can of coke and craving a pizza. Everyone will have their own favourite pairs. Also it can be easy to get into a routine of having something sweet after dinner. Craving something sweet an hour after dinner isn’t hunger it’s 100% cravings.
Emotions: This is a huge one with many people. You see it in movies, ads and maybe even your family. Emotional eating. Feeling sad, angry, down etc. means an excuse to over eat/drink to many people. Rarely do you ever hear of anyone feeling better after this binge but that never stops us! The way to get around this is dis-associate food with your emotions and actually fix what is causing the emotion….. Easier said than done!
What to do?
If it is hunger you’re experiencing then you need to eat something. Ideally something nutritious of course. Meals containing protein have been shown to keep people feeling fuller for longer and large amounts of vegetables can be eaten without over-doing it on calories.
Cravings are more difficult and will require some willpower. Identifying if it is hunger or just a craving is the first step then you gotta talk yourself out of it. Avoiding things that set off cravings is nearly impossible but the less things to set you off the better. Rewarding yourself for resisting for a week or more with a treat can be a great way to set yourself up for another big push at healthy eating. If you are over indulging in your cravings it can really set you back on any aspirations of weight loss so taking a look at whether you are mixing up cravings with hunger can make a big difference!