How Do I Know the Difference Between Hunger and Cravings?


  • Mentor

    Question: How does one discern between the "cravings" and "hunger?" When I drive by the donut shop my mind says "Oh look, wouldn't a fresh cinnamon roll taste great just now?" So how is the cravings of the flesh different from the hunger of the flesh? It seems like my flesh is saying, "Go for it!" Isn't that the same as hunger?"

    This is a very important question to ask and discussion to have. Essentially "hunger" is a physiological need to eat whereas cravings are mental desires for a specific food. In other words, the difference between body hunger and head hunger, or "below the neck" hunger and "above the neck" cravings.

    True (body) hunger is accompanied by physical symptoms such as growling in the belly (our main indication to eat), and if prolonged, headaches, dizziness, feelings of weakness, low blood sugar and other unwanted symptoms (do not wait to eat until you get these symptoms). Cravings are thoughts, images of food in the mind. True hunger symptoms will not pass, cravings will.

    When I was first understanding from God's Word (Deuteronomy 8:3) about the essential need to wait until hungry to eat I had a difficult time discerning what true hunger was. Was it merely a desire for certain food? Was it cravings for pizza when I passed the Pizza Hut?

    I finally discovered that true hunger manifests itself by actual physical symptoms, specifically the unmistakable growling in the belly. This is the sign of true hunger, not thoughts in my head for certain foods.

    There is a very helpful article on this subject on the website differencebetween.com which I will quote here:

    Difference Between Hunger and Cravings:

    Hunger and craving are two feelings that indicate our need for food. Once you feel hunger or cravings for food, you’ll try to satisfy this need by eating. However, it is important to know that there is a distinct difference between hunger and craving. When you are hungry you’ll eat anything to satisfy the hunger, but you experience cravings for specific food, and these cravings cannot be satisfied by eating just anything. This is the key difference between hunger and craving.

    What is Hunger?
    Hunger is a strong desire or need for food. Hunger can also refer to the feeling of weakness or discomfort caused by lack of food, along with the need to eat.

    Hunger is a natural reaction – it is the body’s way of letting you know that it needs energy. Hunger is related to the body’s basic intent on survival; thus, hunger for food is built into our genes. Since hunger is a physical requirement, any type of food can satisfy your hunger. But it is always advisable to eat healthy and nourishing food when you are hungry. When you are extremely hungry, you’ll even eat food that you don’t normally like. Once your hunger has been satisfied, you’ll stop eating.

    Hunger is a physical sensation and is related to contractions of the stomach muscles. These contractions, once they become severe, are known as hunger pangs. Some people also feel symptoms such as headaches and dizziness when they are hungry. These symptoms will also disappear when they eat.

    Difference Between Hunger and Craving

    What is Craving?
    Craving is a powerful desire for food. You generally feel cravings for a specific type of food or drink. Craving is not the same as hunger since cravings do not indicate your body’s need for energy. You may feel cravings for a specific food like chocolate, just one hour after you have had a full meal. Therefore, cravings do not indicate a need for food and neither do they result in physical weakness or discomfort. Since cravings are not physiological sensations, you can control them by ignoring them. Ignoring them for about 20 minutes can make the cravings disappear.

    However, cravings can be brought on by hormones, emotions, associations, and memories. For example, if you always buy chocolate chip cookies from a certain shop, passing that shop may create cravings for cookies. Pregnant women also experience cravings for certain types of food; these cravings are often attributed to nutrients that are required during pregnancy.

    Chocolate and confectionaries made of chocolate are typically among the top foods people say they crave. Researchers have found out that cravings for certain types of food are connected to their ingredients. For example, chocolate contains the neurotransmitter phenylethylamine, which has a significant function in regulating the body’s release of endorphins.Key Difference - Hunger vs Craving

    What is the Difference Between Hunger and Craving?
    Type of Food:

    Hunger: You’ll eat any type of food to satisfy your hunger.

    Craving: You generally experience cravings for a specific food or drink.

    Physiological Requirement:
    Hunger: Satisfying your hunger is a physiological requirement.

    Craving: Satisfying your cravings is not a physical requirement.

    Cause:
    Hunger: Hunger indicates your body’s need for energy.

    Craving: Cravings can be brought on by hormones, emotions, associations, and memories.

    Need vs Want:
    Hunger: Hunger has to be satisfied, it cannot be ignored.

    Craving: Cravings can be ignored; it can make the craving go away.

    Discomfort:
    Hunger: Hunger can create physical discomforts such as stomach cramps, headaches, and dizziness.

    Craving: Cravings can create emotion distress, but not physical discomfort.

    Here is the source of the above article.

    Also, see these three very short videos that will help to discern between true hunger and mental cravings.



  • Thank you Pastor Mike for posting these videos, I really needed them. I was going to ask how do I know if i'm really hungry. I have really reduced my calorie intake. I'm not on a diet I just used My Fitness pal and it says I only need 1800 calories a day to have reasonable weight loss. That's a huge drop for me. But it feels like I'm always hungry. Now I know I'm not hungry "AT ALL" I'm just constantly craving. I can''t believe I'm only eating 1800 calories a day instead of "a meal" and I'm not hungry whether my head says I am or not. I really like the third video, I didn't know exercise can give me the same relief of stress as food. I like that option better. I finished lesson 6 of the weight class and it along with this post shows me what to do about my cravings. Run to the Cross to receive all the Grace, love, forgiveness and satisfaction I need.



  • This is really good 👏


  • Mentor

    Just thinking more on this: Need to define our terms

    The world uses terms of hunger and cravings - physical and mental - the videos from the "experts" are helpful in making a distinction. And I can see the differences between the two. But they do not give any real strategy to deal with the cravings.

    The Bible uses terms of hunger and lusts - physical and spiritual/mental - this is also helpful in that we can understand that there is a real difference between being hungry (like Jesus was hungry after fasting for 40 days - Luke 4:2) and the lusting for foods (like Proverbs 23:2-3).

    "And put a knife to your throat If you are a man given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, For they are deceptive food."  Proverbs 23:2-3 (NKJV)

    As we apply the Gospel, we find real solutions for those "lusts" that have been crucified with Christ.

    "And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." Galatians 5:24-25 (NKJV)

    Then by faith, we put on the Lord Jesus, coming to the Cross and walk away from those lusts.

    "Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts." Romans 13:13-14 (NKJV)


  • Mentor

    @Denise-D said in How Do I Know the Difference Between Hunger and Cravings?:

    Thank you Pastor Mike for posting these videos, I really needed them. I was going to ask how do I know if i'm really hungry. I have really reduced my calorie intake. I'm not on a diet I just used My Fitness pal and it says I only need 1800 calories a day to have reasonable weight loss. That's a huge drop for me. But it feels like I'm always hungry. Now I know I'm not hungry "AT ALL" I'm just constantly craving. I can''t believe I'm only eating 1800 calories a day instead of "a meal" and I'm not hungry whether my head says I am or not. I really like the third video, I didn't know exercise can give me the same relief of stress as food. I like that option better. I finished lesson 6 of the weight class and it along with this post shows me what to do about my cravings. Run to the Cross to receive all the Grace, love, forgiveness and satisfaction I need.

    It is good to see you running to the cross of Christ and finding satisfaction in Him, Denise.

    In the next few days, we will be updating the Weight Loss course lessons, so you will be seeing some changes in your lessons.

    I also recommend that you come back to those first few lessons in a week and read through them as they will be different with new foundational content that will be helpful to you as you continue in the course.

    I'm praying for you as you continue to look to Christ and delight yourself in Him.


  • Mentor

    @Bill-M said in How Do I Know the Difference Between Hunger and Cravings?:

    Just thinking more on this: Need to define our terms

    The world uses terms of hunger and cravings - physical and mental - the videos from the "experts" are helpful in making a distinction. And I can see the differences between the two. But they do not give any real strategy to deal with the cravings.

    The Bible uses terms of hunger and lusts - physical and spiritual/mental - this is also helpful in that we can understand that there is a real difference between being hungry (like Jesus was hungry after fasting for 40 days - Luke 4:2) and the lusting for foods (like Proverbs 23:2-3).

    "And put a knife to your throat If you are a man given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, For they are deceptive food."  Proverbs 23:2-3 (NKJV)

    As we apply the Gospel, we find real solutions for those "lusts" that have been crucified with Christ.

    "And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." Galatians 5:24-25 (NKJV)

    Then by faith, we put on the Lord Jesus, coming to the Cross and walk away from those lusts.

    "Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts." Romans 13:13-14 (NKJV)

    This was very well said, Bill.

    The world only knows physical and mental/emotional. They lack understanding of the spiritual (sinful lusts) and therefore cannot see the cross of Christ as the solution. Consequently they are only able to recommend distractions, thinking other thoughts, connecting with other people, etc. which are not life changing or transformative, but temporary bandaids on a deep wound that only Christ can heal.

    As we read in 1 Peter 2, "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." Christ suffered so that we might be healed.

    The solution is not just in thinking other thoughts or distracting ourselves from the cravings of our flesh. If it were that easy then Jesus didn't need to die. But Jesus did die and rise again to heal us. His body was broken for us and His blood was poured out for us. He feeds us with Himself so that we can turn from our temporary cravings and instead enjoy eternal delights.

    Thank you for posting this wise instruction.


Log in to reply