Mindful Eating

Hunger, Fullness, and Cravings

Hunger is our bodies way of telling us that it is time to eat, and the feeling of fullness is it telling us to stop. Sometimes, these signals get confused because of our emotions, environment, and cravings. In substance use disorders it is common to use food as a way to cope or a way to satisfy cravings for a substance. To avoid overeating and to make smart choices, think “Am I hungry?”,  “Am I just craving something? “, or “Am I full?”.

Cravings can be caused by many things, but vitamin and mineral imbalances can contribute to the problem. That is why it is so important to eat a diet full of fruits, and vegetables.

Thinking about hunger, fullness, and recognizing cravings can help you control your cravings and your food intake to make smarter choices.


Triggering Cravings

Think about your sugar and caffeine intake when it comes to cravings.

  • Excess sugar triggers a hormone in our brain that may cause cravings for substances of choice. (See Watching out for Salt, Sugar, and Fat).
  • Caffeine is an addictive substance, and when overconsumed can also trigger cravings for foods and substances of choice.
    • Excessive caffeine use can also lead to disrupted eating patterns, sleep patterns, and contribute to weight changes in recovery.
    • According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, moderate caffeine consumption — up to 24 oz a day or providing up to 400 mg/day of caffeine — can be incorporated into a healthy diet since it is not associated with an increased risk of major chronic diseases. However consumption above this amount is highly discouraged. 
    • In substance use recovery caffeine should be avoided if possible. 

Caffeine is found naturally in coffee, tea, and cocoa. However, it is often added to drinks such as soda and energy drinks. These drinks also tend to be high in sugar and calories and should be avoided. 

For advice on switching up your beverages, check out making better beverage choices.

Caffeine hides in a lot of our drinks, to keep in mind how much you may be drinking each day, take a look at the image below. For reference, a can of soda pop has about 40 mg of caffine.

Being mindful while you eat can help you think about and control hunger, fullness, and cravings.

Tips for eating mindfully:

  • Portion your plate and then sit down. Do not have extra food at the table.
  • Sit down at a table to eat, or have a designated place for eating.
  • Do not eat in front of the TV, it distracts you from listening to your body.
  • Eat slowly, put your fork down between meals!

For other tips on mindful eating, click here

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