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Feeling the Craving; Craving the Feeling

woman at open fridge at home kitchen

Feeling the Craving; Craving the Feeling

How can I be hungry when I just ate lunch an hour ago? 

First, it’s important to distinguish between a craving and actual hunger. Craving food is all about an associated feeling and not a stomach rumble. A hungry stomach will growl, cramp, and physically get your attention. While a craving comes with a fierce desire for a particular food – you just have to have it.

Emotional cravings (often followed by emotional eating) can be linked to our upbringing – a pattern developed since childhood. Children will often become unsuspecting emotional consumers due to their well-meaning parents trying to comfort and console their traumatic experiences. Picture the loss of a school athletic game; then, out for comfort food to heal the wound. Or, how about a victory celebration at Dairy Queen? Each, in its way, feeds a subconscious pattern connecting emotion with food, ingrained deep within the sub-cortex (the sub-conscious mind).

When you’re excited, do you reach for a hamburger, steak, or pizza? When you’re upset, maybe you feel like taking a short trip to the drive-in or ice cream parlor or decide to eat a whole box of Oreos? Eating does more than fill our belly – it also satisfies the ingrained emotional eating patterns we develop over time. These patterns are stored feelings tied to an emotional experience either through repetition or intensity, such that it becomes your new “normal response .” And unfortunately, that response is emotional eating and over-indulgence that has nothing to do with actual hunger.

Here’s how you can actively tell the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger:  

  • Emotional hunger can’t wait; physical hunger can. 
  • Emotional hunger appears in an instant; physical hunger occurs gradually. 
  • True hunger is satisfied by various foods; emotional eating is only satisfied by particular foods. 
  • You can quickly stop eating when you are full and satisfy your true hunger, but you may continue eating when emotions are in the driver’s seat.

“Comfort foods are eaten to obtain or maintain a feeling,” says Brian Wansink, Ph.D., Director of the Food and Brand Lab at the University of Illinois. “Comfort foods are often wrongly associated with negative moods, and indeed, people often consume them when they’re down or depressed, but interestingly enough, comfort foods are also consumed to maintain good moods.”

Brian Wansink, Ph.D., Director of the Food and Brand Lab at the University of Illinois

So, what’s the number one comfort food? Ice cream (of course), closely followed by chocolate. 

According to our research at Morter HealthAlliance, it’s estimated that about 75% of overeating habits are caused by emotional overeating, and S.E.M.O. (Subconscious Emotional Memory Override) occurs when your brain gets stuck telling your body an inappropriate message. In this case, the message is to fixate and binge on food your body doesn’t need.

So, here’s a plan to help avoid the roller coaster of emotional eating. First, you must learn to recognize the onset of the pattern—document when you’re eating at times other than your regular mealtimes. How did you feel at that exact moment? Were you upset, happy, sad, or overwhelmed? Record how you feel over time to learn to recognize your emotional eating pattern or patterns.

Next, you need a pattern interrupt. Morter March and Morter March Release are two perfect tools to change your patterns and unlock the power of your mind. Be thankful for your perfect body, weight, and fitness, and do the Morter March! Then reward yourself by going for a walk or swim. Train your brain to be different by activating your physical body while changing your brain pattern(s). Begin to picture yourself craving “good for you foods,” and then Morter March to success!

And, don’t deny yourself every time. A cookie or ice cream won’t harm you if you consume them in moderation. Remember, feeling “guilty” can be much more harmful than indulgence!