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Are You Hungry or Is It a Craving?

By Amy Silva

Food is a major part of our lives. We need it for survival, but it's become so enjoyable with the addition of sugar into almost everything that we eat and almost everything we do. Now we don't just eat when our bodies signal that we're hungry, we eat when we're happy, sad, celebrating, enjoying the holidays, in business meetings and when there's cake, donuts or bagels in the break room. Temptation is everywhere we turn, and we don't always make healthy choices when we're mindlessly eating while watching TV or eating for an occasion. What has led us to crave "bad" foods, binge, and emotionally eat even when we're not hungry -- and how can we stop?

Is Your Hunger Really Just a Craving?

Oftentimes we think we're hungry when our bodies are really asking for water. Drinking water prior to eating is a good habit to get into. It will increase your water intake and may let you know if you're hungry or if the feeling will pass after having a glass. A good rule of thumb to follow is if you aren't picky about what your next snack or meal is, and you just want something in your stomach because it's growling, it's probably hunger. If only a specific food will do and you can't get your mind off it until you eat it, that's a sign it's a craving. Sometimes getting your mind off the craving is all it takes to make it go away.

Wanting foods such as these may be a clue your body is craving a food and not truly hungry:

  • Chips
  • Pizza
  • Fried foods
  • Chocolate
  • Ice cream

What Our Bodies Might Be Telling Us When We Have Food Cravings

There are different reasons one might crave unhealthy foods. One is not getting adequate protein. Protein can help in feeling satiated which could cut down on unnecessary snacking. Lack of sleep and excess stress can trigger cravings, and if the body's serotonin and leptin levels drop you may experience a craving. Researchers also found that those who don't get enough sleep often eat more calories throughout the day as well. Then there are emotional eaters who often eat to feel better emotionally, although it's only temporary.

There are many reasons one might experience food cravings but knowing the difference between hunger and cravings is a good starting point towards not giving into cravings in the future. Get adequate sleep, eat enough protein, drink water before snacking and try to avoid stress as much as possible. Planning a snack can offer the same enjoyment as giving into a craving can, with the added benefit of teaching moderation and removing any guilt associated with giving into cravings too often.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Flower Mound, Tex.

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