Hunger vs Craving

Today, one of my clients asked “Why am I so hungry all the time?”, which prompted me to ask the following:

  • Describe ‘hungry’ – is your stomach growling, do you feel lightheaded, weak or really grumpy?
  • What do you reach for when you feel this way?
  • If you eat something small & healthy, does that do the trick or do you want more?
  • What have you had to eat so far today?

She’s been really consistent about water intake & staying hydrated, so I knew that – for her- it wasn’t thirst. For many people, though, thirst can be confused with hunger – so that is usually my first recommendation. In this case, it turns out that she wasn’t really hungry, she was craving.

One major set up for cravings is processed foods. Many packaged foods may seem fairly healthy at first glance and even look OK from a calorie & macronutrient persepective. Unfortunately, so many of the additives in processed food can really increase cravings. And what do they make you crave? More processed foods.

Do I eat processed foods? Yes, but very rarely. There’s a huge range between a piece of Ezekiel Bread and an Oreo. The bread is processed and not ideal (but it is organic, has some fiber, and you can pronounce all the ingredients). The Oreo is an edible product – it’s not immediately poisonous , it’s vegan – BUT it has artificial ingredients and inflammatory oils – putting it in the category of ‘food-like product’ for me. Processed foods are generally more calorie-dense and less nutrient-dense, meaning you get more calories and less nutrition. That’s not going to nourish your body and certainly won’t help if you’re looking to lose weight.

So if you’re feeling hungry, drink something and/or eat! Just make sure it’s not just a craving. Or even if it is a craving, try eating whole, unprocessed food first.