Written by: Mario Ashley, MBA

Whether you give into hunger or cravings it has the same overall effect….and it’s over-eating. Sometimes that’s based on a physiological necessity (hunger) to eat more and sometimes its a psychological response (craving) that we want to be aware of.

Here’s how you can spot the difference between hunger and cravings:

We all have certain foods that make us feel good when we eat them. They bring up memories of our found childhood. These comfort foods have a smell and flavor profile to them that lights up our memory centers in our brain. Cravings usually conjure up visions of a specific food whereas hunger goes for whatever is in sight. Most often, when emotions are high, we eat these foods as cravings. These are also the foods that are holding us back from getting the body composition results we desperately want and need.

If you are on a calorie deficit diet of any kind (Paleo, Weightwatchers, Macros, etc) you will find yourself hungry very often. The entire principle of weight loss is to consume less food (than you normally eat) in order to expend more calories in the form of physical exercise or daily activity. You need to recognize and expect that these hunger pains will come. Just keep telling yourself its temporary. Here are some hunger hacks that may help.

When most people go on diets they start to eat healthier foods including more vegetables, and lean meats and less processed food and sugar. The immediate consequence is that your blood sugar drops. Normally, low blood sugar causes your body to release stress hormones, such as epinephrine. Epinephrine is responsible for craving symptoms and shakiness. Think of it like this, cravings come from the head, hunger comes from the stomach.

The longer you wait to eat, the more hungry you will feel going into your next meal. Unlike cravings, hunger comes on gradually. Which is why I’m not a big proponent of intermittent fasting (I.F.) without calorie tracking. I get many clients who say they tried I.F. but didn’t lose weight. Of course, they didn’t lose weight it’s because they ended up eating more calories in one meal doing I.F. than they do normally in an entire day without I.F. This is also why I will snack before dinner so I don’t go to the restaurant ravenous.