Hunger, Appetite, and Cravings

- POSTED ON: Aug 11, 2011




Hunger is a need for food.

Appetite is an interest in food.

Cravings is a desire for specific foods.

For those of us who have difficulty controlling our food-intake,
it is important to stop and examine why we want to eat something.

Hunger is a signal from the body that it needs food for energy.

Our stomachs and brains will provide cutes that tell us to eat.

Signals from the stomach could be growling, an empty,
hollow feeling, or hunger pangs.

The brain’s signals can be a headache, trouble concentrating,
irritability or fogginess

Some people experience physical fatigue.

Hunger doesn’t go away over time. It only gets worse.  
...(An exception exists when you are several days into a water fast.)...

Any food will satisfy hunger and take the hunger signals away.

Appetite is not the same thing as hunger. It actually refers to an interest in food.

Cravings are very different than hunger, but are very similar to appetite.

To crave means “to long for; want greatly; desire eagerly”.

Usually the foods one craves are not a necessity, and don’t serve
a life-sustaining need.

Cravings, unlike hunger signals, will change over time,
even over a period of 10 minutes. They are usually triggered
by emotions like stress, boredom, sadness, etc.

Unlike hunger, where any food will quell the sensation,
only one specific food will satisfy a craving.

Hunger, Appetite and Cravings are all a normal part of eating,
and have a place in a healthy diet. However, we need to learn to satisfy outselves
in a controlled manner to keep from overeating, especially since the majority
of the foods we crave are high in sugar, salt, fat, or some combination of the three.
Those of us who have difficulties with our weight need to work to make conscious decisions.

Some people find a “Hunger Scale” (such as the one below)
useful to assess their hunger levels.

Hunger Level Sensations and Symptoms
1 Starving, weak, dizzy
2 Very hungry, cranky, low energy, a lot of stomach growling
3 Pretty hungry, stomach is growling a little
4 Starting to feel a little hungry
5 Satisfied, neither hungry nor full
6 A little full, pleasantly full
7 A little uncomfortable
8 Feeling stuffed
9 Very uncomfortable, stomach hurts
10 So full you feel sick

I think the ideal weight-loss or maintenance eating goal would be to acheive Number 5 at mealtimes.
IF one is eating in response to body signals,...rather than specific mealtime schedules...
one would eat when feeling a Number 2 or 3 hunger level... but only eat until one is Satisfied,
and no longer Hungry, but not actually Full.  

I've always found assessing and responding to hunger levels to be an extremely challenging task,
and personally, I tend to fail at it far more often than I succeed.  That is one of the main reasons 
for my personal choice to record all my daily food intake, and count my calories.


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Existing Comments:

On Aug 11, 2011 Karen925 wrote:
***assessing and responding to hunger levels to be an extremely challenging task*** Indeed it is. Daily weighing of myself and my food and recording the same is much easier for me. Of course, if I chose not to ever eat high calorie/carb foods then no recording would be necessary. But so far, I keep chosing to eat those foods, so I will continue to do the recording necessary, so I do not become fat again.

On Aug 11, 2011 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Good Plan, Karen.

On Aug 15, 2011 rross wrote:
I too find assessing and responding to hunger levels a challenging task. My main problem seems to be cravings (salt in particular, my ultimate downfall), and more so the last two months. Nothing has changed in my daily and personal life to trigger this. I think something in my body might be out of sync. I record all my daily food intake and count my calories and find in well within my budget for the day, but my sodium and/or carb level are above my norm,

On Aug 15, 2011 rross wrote:
(something happened to my post so continue the last sentence here) I record all my daily food intake and count my calories and find it well within my budget for the day, but my sodium and/or carb levels are above my norm, I gain 2-3 lbs. During the next week or two I'll be experimenting with different food options to correct sodium/potassium levels as well as other nutrients. Excellent post Phyllis Thanks you for sharing

On Aug 15, 2011 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Hi Rina-Marie. One of the interesting (and frustrating) things about Maintenance for me is the changes that seem to occur over time with regards to my hunger, cravings, food-intake, and my weight results. During my first year of Maintenance, my body seemed to follow the about same pattern as during weight-loss, but within the second year, my records and my memory show my body began changing to give me higher hunger/craving levels while burning far less calories.

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