Hunger or Cravings? How to Know the Difference.

Uh oh–there’s that feeling again. You know, the one that urges you to tack on biscotti to your coffee bill, or make a quick stop at the vending machine to grab that tasty-looking bag of chips. Before you make the move to munch, ask yourself if you truly feel hungry, or if the sheer sight of an enticing snack has caught your attention, and now you crave it. Knowing the difference between hunger and cravings can boost your health by saving you from making poor eating choices.

Oftentimes, factors like emotions, stress, and sleep deprivation can lead you to feeling an artificial sense of hunger. Surrendering to the power of cravings will have you nibbling on tempting food–even when you shouldn’t–and this habit can add inches to your waistline over time.

Knowing the difference between your body needing fuel and your brain being fooled by cravings can aid in weight loss or help you maintain a healthy weight. But that’s not all! The act of acknowledging the difference will heighten your awareness overall, keeping you sharp and attentive in all areas of life.

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1. Step Back and Ground Yourself
Remember when you last ate. Does it make sense to feel hungry, considering how much time has passed? A complete, satisfying meal should keep you hungry for about 3 hours. If only an hour has passed, you’re probably experiencing a craving. And the sight of something delicious or incredible-smelling will only intensify that craving. But don’t freak out! With a little willpower and patience, you’ll witness that craving flutter away. According to research, cravings subside in about 15 minutes, so it’ll pass if you take a deep breath, come back to earth, and give it some time. Not only will you slash calories from your daily intake, you’ll also gain better control over yourself and your actions.

2. Consider Time and Direction
True, authentic hunger creeps up gradually, oftentimes joined by lovely physical symptoms such as a lightheaded or dazed feeling and a grumbling stomach. These physiological signs indicate your body needs fuel, and you should eat something. By contrast, when feelings of hunger strike suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere, you’re likely experiencing a craving. Look around, and you can probably locate the source of that immediate appetite spike. Did your coworker just pass you with a mouthwatering-looking burrito? Is your boss handing out donuts to honor a recent accomplishment? When experiencing hunger directed toward a specific food, the powers of a craving are likely working their evil magic.

Factors like sleep deprivation can also play a roll in stimulating your appetite throughout the day and triggering cravings. If you struggle with getting enough ZZZs, check out these 9 Tips to Get Better Sleep.

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