True Hunger and False Cravings

Learn the difference between hunger and cravings.

| January/February 2004

Food’s effect on our consciousness is like a drug. Whether we realize it or not, we crave specific foods for their ability to change the way we feel, not their ability to satiate our hunger, according to Kevin Spelman, A.H.G., an herbalist in Baltimore.

Our minds’ ties to food began in infancy when our mothers gave us milk to assuage our hunger cries. This response relieved our hunger but, more importantly, it soothed us, and from the very beginning we learned to associate food with love.

As we grew, we realized that food could alter our state of mind and body: A chocolate bar lifts us up when we’re tired, a glass of warm milk ushers in dreams when rest seems far away, a chicken sandwich anchors us during a stressful day at work, and a box of cookies keeps us company when we’re lonely. Because of food’s ability to alter our consciousness, at some point we stopped eating only when we needed to, and started eating when we wanted to.


The Ayurvedic Approach

Practitioners of Ayurveda, the ancient system of healing from India, warn that eating when we want to causes us to forget what true hunger feels like. We trick ourselves into thinking that wanting food is the same as being hungry, which isn’t true: Wanting food is a mental and emotional need, while being hungry is a physiological one. A feeling of hunger is our body’s way of telling us our digestive processes are in full swing: hydrochloric acid secretion is ample, peristalsis is strong, and our body is prepared to fully break down and assimilate any food we put into it.

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