Welcome to Week 2 of the Craving Change Challenge! This week we ask you: Have you ever considered that there are different kinds of hunger? More importantly, do you really know what you’re hungry for? Getting to the bottom of why you overeat or want to eat when you’re not physically hungry is not only important for your medical weight loss program, it’s an integral part of eating in an emotionally intelligent way that will serve you for the rest of your life—helping you keep off the weight and stay healthy.The heart of all of this lies in the approach of mindful eating. Mindful eating is just what it sounds like, and a key component of it is simply awareness. Awareness of why you eat, how much you eat, and whether or not you even like what you’re eating! Our goal this week is to shift from goals and outcomes—for example, ‘Did I lose any weight?’—to simply awareness.
Awareness is power and brings opportunity! You’ll likely find after completing the mini-challenges for this week that you know yourself much better—and perhaps realize that you want to know even more.Here is your awareness mini-challenge for this week:
Your mini-challenge for Week 2: Differentiate between different types of hunger. Some detective work is in order to help you identify exactly what you’re hungry for. Here are three major types of hunger you’ll be assessing:
Physical hunger: This happens when you actually need to eat. There are physical symptoms of hunger present, such as a growling stomach, which go away after you’ve eaten.
Sensory hunger: These are cravings that are due to your senses; for example, you smell or see food. Perhaps just the sound of the person eating in the cubicle next to you is enough to trigger it.
Cognitive hunger: This is hunger due to your emotions—stress, sadness or anxiety, for example—or other cognitive states. Cognitive states include knowledge (for example, knowing that it’s 1pm and that’s when you usually eat lunch), thoughts (for example, maybe you talked to your mom and it makes you think about her meatloaf), or memories.
There are lots of non-food things we may hunger for. It may be stimulation when we’re bored, recognition at work, companionship at home, or intellectual pursuits. Learning to identify what we hunger for beyond food is also an important aspect of awareness.So here’s what to do: Each time you think you are hungry each day this week, stop and do the following:
- Assess which of the three types of hunger you think you have. Also, note why you chose the type of hunger you did.
- Answer the question: ‘Will eating help meet my hunger?’ Answer it with either ‘Yes,’ ‘No,’ or ‘Not sure.’ If the answer is ‘No,’ write down what you think might help you meet your hunger.
- Write down your answers to 1 and 2, and review your notes each night. Are you surprised at how many non-physical moments of hunger you experienced? Did the awareness of the presence of different types of hunger lead you to make different choices around food selections, and whether or not to eat?
By Day 7, you should be far better at both identifying the type of hunger you have, and how to best address it. During your daily check-in, don’t forget to answer your overall challenge questions. Refer to the challenge set-up article for the additional questions to answer during your daily check-in. As you do this, you will begin to see the amazing progress you’ll make when you simply become aware. Good luck and see you next week!
By: Suja Pilli, MD, Shaun J. Adams, MSN, FNP-C