Friday, May 18, 2012

How Can I Tell if it's Real Hunger or Emotional Hunger?

I'm trying to start eating sensibly: Paying attention to when I'm hungry and stopping when I'm full. But how can I tell when I'm hungry whether it's real or whether it's just emotional cravings?  Laura B.

Hi Laura,
Good moves you are making to start eating sensibly! And good question. There is a difference between hunger and appetite. 

Hunger is when your body sends signals that it's time to refuel: It might be your stomach growling, a headache, or a light headed feeling you get when your blood sugar starts to drop. Hunger prompts the question, "Can I get something to eat?"

Appetite is when your senses of taste and smell signal there is something that you would enjoy eating. Appetite begs the question, "What would I like to eat?" Appetite comes when you see a juicy steak, smell fresh cookies baking, or when someone brings out the birthday cake. Even after you are stuffed full from a satisfying meal (ie, not hungry), someone can offer you a slice of apple pie and suddenly you realize you would love one. That's appetite.

But it's still more complicated than that. Recent studies show there are hormones that signal you to have an appetite based on your usual eating times. If you regularly have lunch at 11:30, you'll start to sense "it's time to eat" just around that time. If you always have a snack at 9 pm, you'll notice a nudging feeling that it's time to find a snack each night at that same time. Evidence suggests you can break these habits as well. Trying to reduce your snacking? Ignore the signals you're getting and in time your body will readjust and stop telling you to think about food when you'd like it to be the last thing on your mind.

The bottom line is, feeling like you want to eat something is annoying and uncomfortable, regardless of the underlying reason. It can be distracting no matter why you're having a craving. And nothing terrible will happen if you ignore these signals. You simply do not have to eat every time you feel like it! Take a walk, call a friend, have a glass of water, choose healthy foods at mealtimes. Learning to say 'no' to those pesky feelings will actually make them go away faster.

No comments:

Post a Comment