Usually, the foods you crave are not a necessity, and don’t serve a life-sustaining need. Cravings, unlike hunger signals, change over time, even over a time period as short as 10 minutes. They are usually triggered by emotions (stress, boredom, sadness, etc.), an attachment or fondness for a certain food, or just being around the food. Unlike hunger, where any food will satisfy you, only one specific food will satisfy a craving.
How to tell if you are truly hungry:
The desire for food intensifies while you wait.
Even the thought of eating something not that pleasant (e.g., lima beans) still makes you want to eat.
How to tell if you are just having a craving:
You don’t feel any hunger “pains” or experience any physical hunger symptoms.
The thought of eating goes away when you are distracted by other things.
You feel “emotional” about eating a certain type of food (e.g., happy, comforted, guilty, etc.)
You desire something very specific and not healthy, so not a particular nutrient but more a texture or consistence (e.g., sweet, crunchy, etc.).
Ways to control a craving:
- Go nuts. Drink two glasses of water and eat an ounce of nuts (ex: 6 walnuts, 12 almonds or 20 peanuts). Within 20 minutes, this can extinguish your craving and reduce your appetite.
- Let it go. Since stress is a huge trigger for cravings, learning to deal with it could potentially save you hundreds of calories a day. If only ice cream will satisfy you, it’s a craving, not hunger. Recognize that and divert your mind: Call someone, listen to music, run an errand, meditate or even go out and exercise! Do whatever will help you relax.
- Treat yourself…within limits. Once in a while, it’s OK to go ahead and have what you’re craving. The more you tell yourself that you can never have that specific food, the more likely you are to not only eat it, but also overeat. The trick to this is to buy only one pack at a time so you won’t be tempted to reach for more.