Is this scenario familiar? The kids are in bed, you’ve settled in to watch your favorite show, and now you’re craving something to eat. Or, you’re in your office and you start dreaming of that other 1/2 sandwich you left in the fridge. You try to suppress it until you just can’t stand it any longer and head for the kitchen. Don’t worry, this happens to everyone at some point!
It’s important for you to know when it’s a craving and when you are experiencing real hunger. Knowing the difference between the two can help you lose weight and maintain it for life. When the craving or potential hunger signal occurs all you have to do is ask yourself a few questions.
How to tell if it’s hunger or a craving in 30 seconds or less!
1) Check the time! Ask yourself when was the last time you ate? Your blood sugar begins to drop within two hours after eating so, after about 3-4 hours you are justifiably hungry.
2) Did you eat enough? If you are hungry within two hours after eating you may not be eating enough calories during your meal. A meal should be a minimum of 300 calories for a woman and 450-500 calories for a man.
3) Are you satisfied? I am a huge believer in portion control versus dieting. However, you also need to satisfy your body so that it feels full. Super small portions of high calorie foods make it difficult to feel full. Choose high volume low calorie meals for optimal results. Eat a balanced meal of veggies, whole grains, and protein so your body has to take time to digest or “burn off” the meal.
One of the best ways to get high volume low calorie foods is to meal plan with light recipes. You can cook them yourself using magazines like Cooking Light and Eating Well, or you can order pre–made low cal meals from companies like Magic Kitchen.
4) Are you dehydrated? If after going through the above checklist you’ve decided you really shouldn’t need more food, try drinking an 8 oz glass of water. See if the hunger disappears. A dehydrated body can send hunger signals!
5) Do you need to get some rest? When you lack sleep, the body tends to crave sugar for a pick me up.
6) Are you bored? I know it’s hard to believe that anyone can be bored these days! However, just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you are not bored with the task at hand. Procrastination and boredom can send you right into the kitchen. Ask yourself if you are trying to avoid something or are looking for something to do.
7) Are you stressed? About 50% of the population turn to food when they are stressed. The other 50% don’t eat at all. Stress can trigger cravings for things like sugar, salt, & fat. Pay attention to stressful situations that come up. See what types of eating patterns the circumstances trigger.
If after asking yourself the above questions you have determined that you really are justifiably hungry — eat! Do not starve yourself! If your larger meal is in the next hour or two or you just had dinner, then have a light snack to tide you over before the larger meal or bedtime.
Some examples of good snacks are a single serving of crackers with hummus, yoghurt with a sprinkle of granola, a single serving of chips and salsa with 1/4 cup of yoghurt, a piece of fruit, oatmeal, or a piece of toast with a tablespoon of peanut or a 1/2 tablespoon of butter.
Hopefully these tips will help you tell when you are experiencing cravings versus hunger. If you have determined that you are craving food without being hungry, do not worry! You are normal! In my next article I am going to teach you how to manage and satisfy your cravings without sabotaging your weight loss/management. So stay tuned!
Please let me know if you have any questions about cravings versus hunger. Or, please feel free to share your own personal weight loss tip. I want to hear from you!
To your health!