Hunger vs. Cravings

Hunger vs. Cravings

Hunger vs. Cravings

Hey folks! I hope that you all had a great Easter weekend! I hope that the Bunny found you and brought you all kind of healthy choices to eat. Well, and maybe something fun and delicious as well. I have a massive weakness for Cadbury Cream Eggs. I can only have one though, they’re waaaaaaay too sweet. But, amazing!

Since we’re talking about sweets and all kinds of naughtiness, let’s talk about cravings. But first, let’s talk about the difference between “hunger” and “cravings”. It’s amazingly easy to confuse the two of these.

There’s a lot of science-y type stuff involved here, and I won’t bore you with. The basic thing to know is this; our gut is known as our enteric nervous system, aka our second brain. This is where we get the “gut feelings”. Ever walk into a place and feel uncomfortable? Or meet someone and your stomach gets those butterflies? Or maybe your gut tells you to cut the blue wire (movie reference!)? That’s your enteric nervous system at work. Our feelings can really affect how we eat. Ever “eat your feelings” when you’re stressed out, had a bad day, or maybe when you’re celebrating a birthday and you feel like having cake even if you’re not hungry? That’s a craving and it’s easy to be confused with hunger.

Hunger will feel a lot different than a craving. For instance, a hunger will be non-specific like, “I just need to eat something or I’ll pass out/yell at someone”. A craving will be for something specific, like salty potato chips, or sweet, like Cadbury Crème Eggs. Hunger will give you a specific signal; growling stomach, light headedness, or being “hangry”. A craving won’t give you a hunger signal, it will feel more like, “Oh hey, there’s an extra-large French fries here. I should eat all of those.” And lastly, hunger will come and go where a craving is more like the French fry example above. It’s like the chips and dips at a party, there’re there, someone went through the effort to put them out, and it would be rude to not eat them sooooooo… nom nom nom nom nom… (five pounds of tortilla chips and guacamole later…)

So where do these cravings come from?

Our brains are busy places. They have to interpret a lot and then coordinate all that information in various ways. The body sends a lot of signals from; our body fat, sensory organs, our gastrointestinal tract, other body systems, etc. and it also has to deal with our emotions, physical feelings, beliefs, our thoughts and many other things that we more or less create in our minds.

This can cause a little confusion and can feel like hunger. Remember the “eat your feelings” thought above? “I’ve had a bad day so I’ll show it with a pint of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough! Take that, life!!!” And maybe, you’ll feel a bit better after, reinforcing that cycle of “stress is bad and ice cream makes me feel better” cycle.

This isn’t a bad thing. It’s perfectly natural. We’re hard wired to seek out satisfaction in food and we all do it in one form or another. What is bad is that food manufacturers know this and use it to their advantage. Processed foods are specifically designed to satisfy those urges as intensely as possible. These foods become a method of self-medication and make us feel better for that moment but do nothing to satisfy actual hunger.

We can fix it though! Through eating whole, real foods we can start to reduce the cravings for the foods that do nothing for our bodies. It takes some time, but it’s possible.

Here’s a few steps to start the process:

  1. Understand that cravings are normal. Everyone has them and you’re perfectly normal to have cravings. They come and go.
  2. If it’s a small craving, find a way to distract yourself. Go for a walk, punch a bag, jump up and down, do burpees, ride your bike, run some stairs, do long division, balance your check book, the list goes on and on…
  3. If it’s a large craving, eat a small portion of the food you want. The secret here is portioning it out. Take a few chips out of the bag, a small scoop of ice cream in a tiny bowl, or even just one Oreo is an example. Stick to your habit of eating very, very slowly. One small bite at a time. Stay checked in and savor every bite.
  4. Ditch the processed foods in the house. This can be hard, especially if there are other members of the family that want that type of food around the house. This might require a talk with the family to decide what is important to have in the house and what isn’t and set up shopping lists and priorities.
  5. Substitute the craving with a healthier option. If you’re craving something crunchy, grab some baby carrots. If you’re feeling something sweet, try a piece of fruit.
  6. If you’re having constant, powerful cravings, you might have a hormonal imbalance and you should go check with your health care provider.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Get creative to help curb some of those cravings. If you do give in and have some of whatever you’re craving, that’s totally ok! You’re normal. I had a Cadbury Crème Egg (or two) and I’m totally ok with it.

Here are a few things to think about in closing:

  1. What do I expect this food to do for me?
  2. What story am I telling myself about this craving?
  3. What else is going on for me right now?

These questions are designed to help find the links in the chain that lead you to that craving, and break them!

What cravings do you have? What’s one thing that you can do to help yourself move forward to break that chain? I’d love to hear!

This is just one of many great lessons from the ProCoach Program. Another class will be forming in the next couple months, be sure to get on the pre-sale list by clicking here, reading about the program and signing up at the bottom. This year long program has been proven to change habits for life resulting in weight loss, boosts in confidence and improved body composition and health.

Daily Dose


10,7,5,5,5 Squat
4×12 Bent Rev. Fly

10 Chin Ups (Bands, if possible)
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