The varieties of hunger

Ginger Lambert

Do you have a hard time controlling your cravings? Going through a rough patch and food seems like a way to sooth yourself? 

There are many reasons we reach for food and not just for hunger. Feeling hungry can range from genuine hunger to intense cravings. We tend to give into our cravings when we have not consumed real meals, especially breakfast. If you keep some healthy snacks in your desk or nearby, you are less like to scarf down the donuts that you really do not want and eat only because they are convenient. 

When we have genuine hunger the body is asking for us to give it nutrients. If you want to get just the right amount, try the nine-inch plate model to help with portion control. This is how it works. Measure one of your dinner plates—it should be about nine inches across. Imagine it in fourths, with vegetables taking up half of the plate and the other half split between your starch and protein. If you feel like you want seconds, take more salad or vegetables. 

Emotional hunger is when we have special foods that are linked to particular memories. I like to have salted peanuts on the side when I eat pizza. We always had a bowl of them on the table when I was a kid and pizza was for dinner. Maybe it was unconscious on my mother’s part, but the peanuts do complement the cheese on the pizza, making it a complete protein. 

Think about your next craving and where it comes from. Remember licking the cake batter when you made a cake with your mom? 

Having an empty stomach can feel good sometimes. It doesn’t always mean you are hungry. Maybe you are just bored and eating is what you usually do. Try waiting a half hour or so and see if you are still hungry. When you finish a meal, try pushing away from the table before you go for seconds and drinking a big glass of water. If after a bit you still feel ravenous, then try having some fruit or a light dessert. 

If losing weight is your goal but you just can’t seem to control the cravings or the servings that you eat, try upping the activities that you do. Burning more calories than you take in will create a deficit, meaning you will lose weight even if you are still eating the same amounts. With summer here it’s easy to fit in extra walks, bike rides, hikes or swims. 

Make mealtime a ritual rather than something you rush through. Light some candles and take a few seconds to reflect on your day and all the things you are thankful for. Even if you dine alone, it can still be restorative for your soul as well as your body in taking time for your meal and some reflection about the day.