Food cravings are an intense yearning for a certain food type. Sweet and salty foods are generally the most common cravings, though cravings for protein rich food like meat or cheese are normal also. While it is natural to experience food cravings, left uncontrolled, cravings often lead to overeating which can undermine one’s health. Food cravings can be caused by a hormone imbalance, fluctuations in blood sugar, or nutritional deficiencies. Emotional reasons such as stress, depression and lack of sleep have also been linked to food cravings.
All these causes for food cravings can be easily broken down into two categories; Physiological cravings and Psychological cravings. To help curb cravings it is important that you learn to recognise the differences between the two.
Signs of Physiological Cravings:
- Low or no energy
- ‘Gnawing’ empty feeling in your stomach
- Light headed or dizzy
Some Examples of Psychological Cravings:
- You want something sweet after dinner
- You want to eat something while watching TV or cooking dinner
- You get hungry at the mention of food
- You feel hungry when you are bored
- You feel hungry when you are stressed
Recognising the difference between and physiological and a psychological hunger will help you to deal with the cravings. Curbing cravings has very little to do with will power, you will succeed with mindful planning and preparation.
Food cravings seem to occur less when we eat regular, balanced meals which provide adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals as well as protein, carbohydrates and other nutrients. Eat every 3 hours to help control blood sugar levels; doing this will reduce intense hunger pains and the possibility of overeating.
Dehydration is often confused with hunger. If you tend to overeat or get regular foods cravings a good habit to get into is to drink a glass of water every time you feel hungry. If thirst is the real cause of the cravings then they should subside straight away.
When you are experiencing food cravings do not give into them instantly. If you wait the cravings out you will be able to recognise whether the craving is physiological or psychological. Real hunger will not subside, however psychological hunger will.
Tension or stress can cause food cravings, so reducing these within the body can help to control a hunger attack. Exercise is great for lowering tension in the body by producing endorphins (aka our happy hormones). Endorphins will help to keep the body more relaxed, as a result curbing food cravings.
Food cravings can hit at different times for different people so it is wise to know the time of day that you need to be on guard. Planning ahead for these times is important, for example, by keeping healthy snacks available for hunger attacks you will be able to prevent the cravings getting out of hand.
Sometimes the time of day that food cravings hit can be due to what you are doing. Changing up your routine so to avoid being bored or unengaged during times like the ‘3pm Slump’ can be a great way to distract you from food cravings. Exercising, booking in a meeting with colleagues, or going to the toilet are all examples of changing up your routine.
If you do have a lapse and you give into food cravings, do not beat yourself up about it. If you did not like that particular food you would not have cravings for it, so it ok to have a little bit of the foods you enjoy. If and when you do have a lapse the trick is to not let it turn into a relapse. A relapse is when you decide to give up on all your hard work and go back to your old, unhealthy and destructive habits. Giving in to a food craving is not the be all and end all, so instead of kicking yourself when you’re down, let it slide and pick up again where you left off.
Remember healthy habits, like most things, are formed with practise, practise, practise! Have fun ☺