During our diet group today, we talked a lot about differentiating among hunger, cravings, and the desire to eat. The rule of thumb is that true hunger is what you feel when you’ve fasted for several hours and your stomach is empty; a craving is a physiological and emotionally intense urge to eat; and the desire to eat comes when you are not particularly hungry but eating because there is food around (discussed on Day 11 of The Beck Diet Solution). For most dieters these three things can be difficult to tell apart, especially if they have a lifetime of confusing cravings and desire with hunger.
Linda has been having trouble with this lately. She reported today that she has been feeling very hungry lately, even though her eating has generally been the same. We asked her whether she often feels hungry an hour or two after a meal; she thought about it and said yes. Chances are Linda is confusing hunger at these times with either cravings or the desire to eat. We discussed with Linda an experiment she can try which will help her get a better understanding of what true hunger really feels like. One day this week she will skip lunch (if her doctor okays it) and rate every hour, between breakfast and dinner, how hungry she feels (Day 12). This is an important experiment because it will prove to Linda three very important things:
1. What true hunger feels like.
2. That hunger comes and goes
3. That she CAN tolerate being hungry
Learning this about hunger will be invaluable for Linda and is one of the many tools that will help her keep the weight off for the rest of her life.