Let’s Talk About Hunger And Cravings

Feeling hungry can mean at least two different things.


When you haven’t eaten in several hours, your stomach is starting to grumble, and you’re feeling those usual bodily sensations associated with hunger; it stems from your body’s need for calories.

Homeostatic hunger is driven by a complex series of signals throughout the body and brain that tell us we need food for fuel.

The best way to get rid of homeostatic hunger is to eat and maintain that full feeling for a healthy amount of time is to eat nutritious foods that fill you up.


People don’t just eat for calories because it signals their body for energy stores, but they eat for pleasure; foods such as ultra-processed foods drive the brain to want more.

This type of hunger is called “hedonic hunger. Hedonic hunger is wanting to eat, dwelling on food or maybe craving something.


The two types of hunger are not entirely distinct but represent two ends of a continuum.

A person who hasn’t eaten in 12 or more hours is experiencing homeostatic hunger, whereas a person who wants dessert after finishing a filling meal is experiencing hedonic hunger. 


A craving is an intense urge to consume a particular food, and this urge can occur regardless of how hungry or full you are. 

Research does not support the claim that certain foods are craved because the body lacks nutrients found in this food.

Cravings are due to an unconscious expectation of what is consumed in certain situations based on what we usually do.


Imagining and visualising foods plays such a strong role in cravings that even asking people to picture a food can trigger a craving.


Suppose you usually enjoy a particular food in a specific situation (e.g. popcorn in front of the TV). You can subconsciously begin to form an expectation that this situation and the consumption of this particular food occur together.

The whole process is about the brain shouting louder and louder to meet its expectations of enjoyment in this particular situation. 


Steering thoughts or attention somewhere else or changing the content of thoughts so that the food is no longer attractive. 

Example of attention control is: 

Distraction: Playing Tetris on the phone for five minutes or solving word puzzles.

Negative Thoughts:  Thinking of the food as ‘ruined’ (for example, imagining someone sneezed on it).


Turning attention to thoughts, feelings and physical sensations and accepting them as transient states. It is relatively new, more time-consuming and more research is needed.


Through training, you learn that thoughts and cravings you do not need to escape from or change, but you also do not have to take them as truths that you simply must act on.

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