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Is It Hunger, Desire or Craving?

I’D LIKE TO GIVE you something more to think about when you feel inclined to grab that snack or that second serving. When you go to eat, is it because of hunger, a craving, or a desire?

Hunger – By now, you should be able to identify hunger easily. You should know that hunger has accompanying physical side effects. Hunger grows gradually. It does not come on suddenly. If you aren’t sure whether you’re hungry, you aren’t. Wait 20–30 minutes and check back in with your body.

Craving – Cravings are for a specific food or drink. They tend to come on suddenly and they are strong. They are specific: if you are craving a Coke and you drink a Mountain Dew, you still crave Coke. If you are hungry, there are lots of options that will satisfy hunger. With a craving, typically only a certain food or beverage will satisfy the craving. Some people report having daily cravings while others report no cravings at all.

Desire – Desire occurs when you’re not hungry, nor are you craving a specific food or drink; you just want to eat or drink. When you’ve eaten half the food on your plate and you are satisfied, it’s time to stop – but desire will enable you to eat the other half of your food. Suppose I had lunch an hour ago and now my spouse asks me if I want to stop and get frozen yogurt. I’m not hungry and I’m not craving frozen yogurt, but I eat it because it sounds good to me. That’s eating from desire.

Remember that if you are not hungry and you eat due to cravings or desire, you are giving the body calories it does not need and has not asked for. It stores these calories as fat. To help handle cravings and desire, you must first identify that you are not hungry and that you are simply experiencing a craving or desire. Think about what will happen if you do not give in. Will you pass out? Will you cry? Will you go to bed feeling deprived? What is the worst thing that can happen if you don’t give in? Be honest and realistic.

Now ask yourself how you will feel if you proceed to eat or drink to satisfy your craving or desire. Will you enjoy what you consume? Will you feel guilty? Will you have to sneak the food? Are you rationalizing your behavior? After considering these things, ask yourself if the food or drink is worth it.

Here’s some good news. Research shows if you wait about 20 minutes cravings and desires pass. We call this urge surfing. Remembering these tips when you have a craving or desire will help keep you on track.