One Weight-Loss Trick: Know The Difference Between Hunger And Cravings

Losing weight can be challenging, and Summit’s nutrition and wellness team wants to make it easier. One tip that can help: recognize the difference between hunger and cravings.

We need food to survive, and hunger is a signal that tells us when it’s time to eat. But when we confuse feelings of hunger with cravings for specific foods, we can eat too much. Summit’s nutrition and wellness team discusses the difference between hunger and a craving, and explains why it’s important to know how to distinguish between the two.

Hunger is a genuine physical signal that our body needs fuel. Our cravings, on the other hand, come out of habit. For example, when you are used to having dessert every day, dessert becomes a habit. At the end of dinner, you are going to feel a craving for something sweet.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to distinguish between hunger and a craving: time is the trick. A craving will go away after 10 or 20 minutes. You might crave cake after dinner, but that’s different from feeling hungry if you didn’t get enough to eat. A craving will subside. Hunger, however, will grow after 20 minutes, and you’ll still want food.

We acknowledge that cravings are tough to combat. Sugar is a common craving, and it’s tough to get out of the habit of eating sugar because it is added to so many foods. If you can maintain the discipline to stay away from sugar, eventually you can stop craving it by weaning your palate away from the need for sugary foods. It’s mentally hard to do. But if you cut back on the food you crave, you can actually retrain your palate.

The time required to break a craving varies. If you have developed a craving for sugary or salty foods, you could try avoiding them for 30 days. After a period of time, sweet things will taste too sugary, and salty foods will taste overwhelmingly salty, and they won’t be as satisfying as they once were.

If going cold turkey doesn’t work for you, that’s OK. You don’t have to give up dessert completely. But pausing between dinner and dessert is important. If you have dessert 15 minutes after dinner, you might have another craving for more two hours later. Instead, try delaying your indulgence. If you eat dinner at 6:00, wait until 8:00 to have that piece of chocolate or a cookie or a cup of ice cream. Another tip is to try not making dessert a nightly habit. Perhaps you could skip dessert on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but enjoy it on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday so you don’t feel deprived. Learning that you can go without a treat on some nights can be a huge step toward practicing healthy habits that help you balance nutrition with the treats you love.

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