A Food Craving vs. a Feeling Craving

by danielle on February 21, 2013

I promise I’m not going crazy on you. I know the post title is a bit whacky but it’s all going to make sense. Everyday we crave feelings. You know those moments when you just crave comfort, happiness, enjoyment, or energy?  Never had those? Maybe it’s because you’re too busy cravings things like cookies, or chips, or ice cream. One of the biggest things I learned the hard way was I tend to misunderstand my cravings for feelings. I’ll give you an example. Back in my super restrictive dieter days I would always get cravings for food, pretty much any food would do, I was hungry. Instead I would go for a walk. But lets be real my body was tired I had no energy. I really was craving food and a nap. But the magazines told me to walk and my hunger would go away. I’ll let you guess whether it worked or not.

sneakers
Here’s another example. I lived in New York for a couple months after college and hated it. I craved comfort, I wanted to see my family, I wanted to be in a familiar place, but I thought I needed to be tough and stick it out. This led me to crave comfort foods like cookies or pasta or just about any home cooking. Since all of these foods were “off limits” at the time, I would again get out of my apartment, keep myself busy, and usually go for a walk. But that wasn’t what I needed. And let me tell you something, there is nothing comforting about walking through a crowd of tourists in the middle of Times Square. This meant I would head back to my apartment, lonely, and likely eat a little too much dry cereal or whatever health food I had on hand because my craving was left unsatisfied.

cerealcomfort
Now let’s look at this proactively instead. When that thought of “I really want a cookie” came up I could have asked myself if I was legitimately hungry. If the answer was no I should have curled up on my couch in my coziest of sweatpants and called my mom. Now that would be comforting. Instead I resorted to all kinds of things that were far from comforting and ended up being miserable because of it.

Here’s yet another example I’m pretty sure you can relate to. Boredom eating. Ever done it? If the answer is no I want to meet you because I’m impressed. We’ve all been there. That moment when you’re bored at home and have nothing else to do so why not eat something? Well truth of the matter is boredom is a feeling. When we feel bored we need to do something so instead of making something eating next time, why not go do something you’ll enjoy. When I’m bored, taking a walk or chewing some gum doesn’t do it for me. I need to get out of my house, maybe go shopping, get a manicure, or do something else I know I will enjoy. Bottom line: next time you get a craving for a feeling or are feeling an not so great emotion don’t mistake it for a food craving. Here’s my foolproof list for what to do instead:

What to do instead of emotional eating

You tell me: What feelings cravings come up most often for you?? How do you cope with them?

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle @ Eat Move Balance February 21, 2013 at 10:20 am

Danielle–this is great! Sometimes it’s just plain difficult to verbalize what it is someone is craving. I love the graphic in this post . . . it helps to separate the different cravings AND offers great suggestions on what to do with them. Thanks!

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danielle February 21, 2013 at 5:17 pm

So happy you enjoyed it Michelle!

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Lucie February 21, 2013 at 11:06 am

Oh how I loooove that list!!! I can SO relate on everything you say. Food is so many times my comfort when I actually need a hug or a nap. Currently I need more ME time and rest. It’s not possible to go for it every day, but I take my time as much as possible.

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danielle February 21, 2013 at 5:19 pm

So glad you are getting to know what you need! So awesome!

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Jessie February 21, 2013 at 11:18 am

As usual, Great post. I really love the list you came up with. I crave comfort. With Joshua working six 12 hour days a week, and our family being so far away, it gets lonely from time to time. I talk to my family everyday, but some days it just doesn’t seem enough. Usually when I get down, I bake, take for another Roxy, or watch a chick flick :)

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danielle February 21, 2013 at 5:21 pm

That’s so great that you are in touch with your feelings. I imagine it’s tough being so far away from home and think you are so incredibly strong :)

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kim@hungryhealthygirl February 21, 2013 at 11:51 am

Love all of your tips, especially the massage one! I find myself eating out of boredom often and I have to ask myself….am I really hungry? The answer is usually no.

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danielle February 21, 2013 at 5:19 pm

It’s so true! Any time I have to stop and ask myself if I’m even hungry at all the answer is usually no too!

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Linz @ Itz Linz February 21, 2013 at 12:10 pm

GREAT post – love the graphic you made with suggestions!! I definitely eat out of feelings sometimes and need to be more mindful of eating when I’m truly hungry instead of our of boredom or anxiety. Itz funny (well, not really) that you mention how magazines say to take a walk if you’re hungry… I read this ALL THE TIME and am like uhhh what?? If you’re hungry, EAT! Goodness gracious, Danielle, I think YOU need to write for mags!!

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danielle February 21, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Hahaha well thank you Linz! Some of the advice out there lately is just crazy!

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Hannah @ CleanEatingVeggieGirl February 21, 2013 at 1:11 pm

This is a seriously great post! So often, I get caught up in bad/nervous/scary/sad/negative moods and find that I use food for my comfort in these situations. The list that you provided of alternate ways to satisfy my feelings cravings is fantastic. I will absolutely be bookmarking this page :) .

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danielle February 21, 2013 at 5:23 pm

I’m so glad you found it helpful! It definitely helps to have a list of options when you get in a tough spot!

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Kierston February 21, 2013 at 1:49 pm

GET A MASSAGE. I need one..asap! :)

Great post!

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danielle February 21, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Thanks Kierston! I think you need to go get one then ;)

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Amanda @ .running with spoons. February 21, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Loved this post, Danielle! Especially the graphic at the end. I find that the biggest one for me is tiredness… whenever I don’t get enough sleep or wear myself a little thin, I often start grabbing at high sugar foods just to get that little extra burst of energy, even if I’m not necessarily hungry. Taking a nap is definitely a better thing, though, or even just laying down to read/watch TV for a while.

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danielle February 21, 2013 at 5:24 pm

I couldn’t agree more. I am the hungriest, crankiest tired person ever! I always get so hungry when all I really need to do is sleep!

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Kaitlin @4loveofcarrots February 21, 2013 at 3:30 pm

great post! I would do the same when I was hungry or craving something, go for a walk but it never satisfied my cravings or hunger. I also hate when magazines tell you to drink tea to reduce your cravings, If I am craving something or need a snack drinking tea is not going to help.

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danielle February 21, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Agreed! I’m not the biggest fan of tea when I’m hungry. Back when I was super restrictive I would fill up on drinks to kill my hunger and all it did was totally mess up my hunger cues. Not the best idea ;)

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Brad Gouthro Fitness February 21, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Fantastic post. We need to collaborate on a project!

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danielle February 21, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Thanks Brad! and Yes! Let’s do it!

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Lisa February 21, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Great post, the image at the end is super helpful as well! A big one for me is when my blood sugar gets too low, I start craving sugar like crazy or when I get little sleep; all I want is carbs and sugar.
I think I’d be better of relying on other things instead of always reaching to food as the solution because it isn’t always the case.

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danielle February 21, 2013 at 5:25 pm

It’s true! Sometimes we really are genuinely hungry and need to eat but other times all I really need is a nap and I will be set!

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Tina @ Best Body Fitness February 21, 2013 at 5:21 pm

GREAT post! It took me a long time to realize there was a distinction between the two. Now having planned distractions and things to help what I’m TRULY seeking when a feeling craving hits helps so much. Love your ideas.

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danielle February 21, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Thanks so much Tina! So glad you liked it!

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Andrea February 21, 2013 at 6:28 pm

I am really intrested in how this goes for you. I try to do plan ahead lunches they sound good on Sunday when I cook them but I’m not exicted about them once it is time to eat them. Did you find that you bought a little bit of this and that and made meals up or that you ended up using staples that you had on hand? I would be nervose that if I tried this I would end up eating out a ton.

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danielle February 22, 2013 at 1:31 pm

I definitely still stuck to buying staple items and ending eating those a lot throughout the week. I also made a couple smaller grocery trips throughout the week instead of one big one like I usually do!

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Greta February 21, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Oh, yeah! I know what it feels! I usually have cravings when I overwork and miss meals – yeah, that simple. Then I crave chocolate (for overworked brain) madly! Some protein fat combination as a piece of blue cheese works best for me… or chocolate ;)
Thank you for sharing this, Danielle.

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danielle February 22, 2013 at 1:32 pm

It’s awesome you’re aware of this! You’ll be able to get proactive about it in no time!

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GiGi Eats Celebrities February 21, 2013 at 8:53 pm

When I am feeling bored, I just leave me apartment – I have to or I might go nuts! The manicure/spa treatment idea…. That’s always on my to-do list! Ah ha ha ;)

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danielle February 22, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Love it! Best thing for me to do is always to get out of the house too!

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Katelyn Rose February 21, 2013 at 9:40 pm

I am so glad this post popped up in my email today! 100% right on time. I have been mistaking my cravings for food as craving for feelings, realizing that, and not satisfying that “craving.” Then, a little while later I over eat to satisfy the craving I’ve ignored. I love this!!! Thank you :)

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danielle February 22, 2013 at 1:32 pm

I’m so happy you benefited from this! Sounds like it was perfect timing :)

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Brittany @ Delights and Delectables February 22, 2013 at 1:15 am

Love this! I tend to feel super tired, but I’m so busy right now that I have to keep on pushing through. I need to stop and allow my body to rest for a few minutes. That would probably make me more productive wouldn’t it??

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danielle February 22, 2013 at 1:32 pm

I do the exact same thing so I totally understand! And yes all we need to do is just stop and take a nap ;)

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Melissa @ Fit 'n' Well Mommy February 22, 2013 at 8:09 am

Great post! When I don’t get enough sleep, I am so tired in the afternoon that I need something to pick-me-up. I usually crave something sweet, so I aim to eat a piece of fruit or make an iced coffee and add a little Xylitol for some sweetness, which usually hits the spot.

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danielle February 22, 2013 at 1:33 pm

That’s so awesome that you know what works for you!

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