Monday, August 29, 2011

Beck-Day 11: Differentiate Between Hunger, Desire and Cravings

Day 11 on The Beck Diet Solution gives us the goal of learning to differentiate between hunger, desire and craving. This is a really important distinction as eating when we are not truly hungry, in my opinion, is the source of a lot of our problem with excess weight.

Here is how Beck describes the three states:

HUNGER: You haven't eaten for many hours, there is an empty sensation in your stomach, you have rumblings in your stomach.

DESIRE: You just ate a big meal and you still want to eat more.

CRAVING: You are not hungry but you have a very strong urge to eat. There is a feeling of tension in you; a yearning in your mouth, throat or body.

This can lead to some confusion, but here is Dr. Joel Fuhrman's description of real hunger.

Let's say you knew what real hunger felt like. Now imagine if we only ate when we were really hungry and then only ate to satisfy that hunger and not stuff ourselves.

Almost seems like too much to ask! In our modern world, tasty and easily accessible food is bizarrely abundant. It's everywhere at all times. And we need to be able to pass it up most of the time, over and over and over, if we are going to have our health.

Is this too much to ask?

I'm kind of jumping ahead here, but let's say we could distinguish between hunger, desire and craving. So what? We would still need to pass up the cookies that we desire, even if we absolutely acknowledge that we are not hungry at that moment.

Now don't get me wrong, I believe that understanding your body's hunger signals are a very important part of this process. And correctly attaching a label to your physiological/mental state is certainly going to help you win this battle.

So back to my question, is it too much to ask of us mere humans to pass up tasty calories when they are available? This is not the exercise on Day 11 of Beck, but I feel that working through this question is important at this juncture.

Maybe it is too much to ask, but I'm not giving up without a fight.

What I have found over the past two years on this journey is that knowledge is power. This weekend, stuck at home with two feverish babies (okay, maybe 11 is not a "baby," but she's still my baby), I was fortunate enough to stumble upon this hour long video. It's a presentation by Douglas Lisle, PhD, based on his book The Pleasure Trap. If you are the type that wants to understand why you overeat and eat food that you absolutely positively do not want to eat, then it is important to come back to this video when you have the time to watch.

I'll summarize what Dr. Lisle is arguing here: We are biologically wired to eat the high calorie, high fat, tasty stuff whenever it is around. It's not our fault, it's a survival mechanism. This is why we want to eat food that we very well know is not on our plan.

Phew, I can forgive myself now. I'm not weak or defective. I'm just human!

But that doesn't mean that I don't need to figure out how to pass the s#*! up. I'm hoping that the next few days of Beck are going to help me do just that.

Do you know the difference between hunger, desire and craving?

Have you done the exercise on Day 11 of Beck? What did you learn?


JudeEastman said...

I almost never eat out of hunger. I know my feelings of craving and desire. ETL has halped me lose the cravings. Hurricane eating brought some back, so I have to do a little detox.

Lisa S said...

A dear friend of mine sent me this link to your blog. I think you are actually describing my life. I have now bookmarked your site and plan on referring to it often. But I have a question...what is the the Beck diet solution plan? Is there somewhere on your blog that you describe it?

Healthy Girl said...

Welcome to HGK Lisa S!

The Beck Diet Solution is a book by Judith S. Beck, the daughter of the psychologist that developed cognitive therapy. Judith as used her father's work and developed a system to help people change their way of thinking about food. That system, in my opinion, really, that new way of thinking, is CRITICAL to success in overcoming struggles with overeating and compulsive eating. You should check out her books on Amazon and see what the reviews are. I believe that will tell you a lot about it. I am working through all of the steps, one by one, publically here on HGK. It's gonna take a while!

Lynne said...

Such a critical question Wendy! The more conscious we are about what we put in our mouths and the more aware of the effects those foods have on us(in various amounts we consume them), the better off we are in making the day to day, moment by moment decisions.

Anonymous said...

Hello there! It was such a relief to read explainations to what I so often feel as "desire" and "cravings". I typically just say I feel "ravenous with a bottomless pit for a stomach". There really is no end to what I can eat. I cannot wait to watch this video! Thank you for sharing!

TejasJJain said...

I rarely feel hunger....I almost always eat due to desire. I have started doing biweekly fast, then only I notice little hunger. But then also, I stuff myself with veggies....

I also read some where that these desire are basically response to your stress (body). So I guess there is larger issue (and personal one).

I am learning to forgive myself and move on....I am seeing improvements but it is long road for me to manage my behavior with desire and craving.

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