Cravings or hunger?

Janelle Baldwin
woman with basket of vegetables, smiling, portrait

Are you having a hard time kicking your cravings to the curb? Does your desire for a fatty, salty or empty calorie food sabotage your workouts and activity level?

Well, you’re not alone! Alissa Rumsey, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, gives some great advice using what she calls, the “apple test.” If you’re hungry or craving something, ask yourself - would I eat an apple now? Or substitute any fruit or veggie in that question to yourself. If the answer is yes, then you are truly hungry. If you answer no, then it is emotional hunger, not even a craving for food, you are desirous of something relationally or emotionally that you are missing - emotional closeness in a relationship or at work; maybe you are in need of stress reduction or help to cope with depression or a blah mood.

It’s time to reflect on what your mind and body are really craving and stuffing the emotional craving down with food. Instead of reaching for a distraction, reach out to someone. Be mindful of your connections to food and how you are feeling using the “apple test.” Stuffing emotions with food will just end in a vicious cycle of eating to attempt to feel better, but in reality you feel worse because you ate “it” and didn’t deal with “it.”

There are a host of ways to put time and distance in between your poor choices that negates all the progress that you make with increased activity and regular exercise.

Here are a few tips that might help you kick those cravings to the curb, help you refocus or learn to recognize true hunger.

  1. Take a walk…instead of heading for the vending machine or opening the snack drawer in your desk, grab someone and take a walk. Separate yourself from the food or the craving. Remember, if you are not hearing yet to the apple test, it is in your mind and not real hunger. You do not need the ____________ fill in the blank.
  2. Chew some gum, drink some water or brew up some coffee or tea. They can distract your mouth without adding calories you’ll soon regret.
  3. Connect with your feelings. Why am I reaching for the chips? Bored? Tell your stomach to shut up and do a few gravity or body weight exercises. Are you stressed? Then try some breathing exercises or yoga. Feeling sad or depressed? Do an activity you love to release the natural endorphins produced with movement to combat those feelings and elevate your mood. Or maybe seek counseling, EAP programs are a great way to kick the cycle of emotional eating.
  4. If you feel you need X, Y or Z to wake up…simply stand up! Raise your arms over your head and do deep abdominal breathing up, and press the arms back to your sides in the arm releasing the carbon dioxide and filling your brain with much needed oxygen.
  5. Have reasonable calorie snacks available that are high in fiber. Get an assortment of 100 calorie options that are healthy handy. Many times we grab something that is full of empty calories and after the last crumb is whipped from your mouth the package it checked…or worse yet tossed out! Make selections with a normal brain, not a cravings brain. Consult a registered dietitian for a list of fiber filled snacks that fit your dietary needs, or reach for the fruits and veggies that are full of fiber, pre-packaged by God.
Ultimately know that hunger and cravings are not equal. Cravings are emotional and it’s your body’s way of saying – ask God for some wisdom or help in prayer for your emotional needs; seek a friend who can help you laugh for a second or just talk; or get up and move to avoid the comfort seeking reach for regret. Cravings are all about the body attempting to connect with you while hunger which most Americans never feel is a survival mechanism controlled by the stomach, not the brain like cravings are. Be mindful and intentional about your cravings/hunger and your moods.

Ben Greenfield, who is a fitness trainer and author, has a list of common cravings that have a common cause, which “once identified, can be kept at bay with some slight tweaks.” If you’re interested in a list of what some cravings mean according to Ben, then visit this address,

As always make the rest of your life the best of your life.

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