Causes of Food Cravings + Prevention Tips
Nothing can make you feel less in control of your eating than a craving. Cravings kick in for various reasons, but not to worry! I have provided a prevention tip to overcoming each one :)
Are you convinced the bag of chips in your pantry somehow has the ability to call your name to eat it all in one sitting? Maybe you think that eating the pint of ice cream in the freezer in one sitting will be an easy fix to overcoming tomorrow's craving. Or maybe you just think you are an uncontrollable eating machine with no willpower when faced with a craving.
If so, this post is for you.
Food cravings are powerful. When you’re craving something specific, it’s hard to think of anything else or even function like a normal human being. I know, cause I’ve been there.
Hunger leaves you vulnerable to food cravings. It’s your body’s sign that you need energy. And when your body needs immediate energy, it’s going to want it to come from a rapidly available source – i.e. processed carbs and sugar. So even though any food will do, you may perceive the solution to your craving as a very specific food.
Prevention: Don’t let yourself get overly hungry. Practice the hunger scale to get in tune with your body’s cues so you know when you’re starting to get hungry. Keep snacks on hand (in your purse, in your car) to ward of an oncoming binge.
Constantly telling yourself no? By creating a list of ‘bad’ foods, you’re basically creating forbidden foods, making them that much more tempting. The other problem is that by telling yourself you can’t have a certain food, it makes you think about those off limit foods more frequently, which then triggers cravings.
Try this experiment: don’t think about the fudgy brownies sitting on your counter.
…You thought about fudgy brownies sitting on your counter, didn’t you? And they probably sounded pretty delicious, right? Maybe you even thought to yourself how delicious a fudgy brownie would be right now? Easy to see where those cravings are coming from?!
Prevention: Stop labeling food good and bad, healthy and unhealthy. Start to build a more flexible view of foods. Certainly, nutrient density and caloric content can be a part of how you value food, but remember that nourishing your soul with food is just as important as nourishing your body.
Emotions can be a powerful trigger for food cravings, as everyone who has ever had a bad day can attest to. Food serves as a distraction from negative emotion. When you’re eating cookies by the handful, you’re not feeling sad/anxious/mad/stressed/lonely...for the time being. Also, eating fatty or high sugar foods releases happy hormones (dopamine) that can make you feel a little bit better…at least temporarily.
Prevention: Consider what your emotional triggers usually are and build activities into your day that help prevent those negative emotions. If you know you’re a boredom eater at night, plan activities after dinner, like taking a walk. If you’re a stress eater, work on making meditation a daily habit. If you’ve been struggling with emotional problems triggering unwanted eating, you might consider keeping the food you tend to emotionally eat out of the house until you’ve had some time to address the underlying issue.
Dieters tend to eat the same thing over and over again, probably because it’s on the good list or because they’ve got it saved in their calorie tracker. Of course, this leads to boredom. Cravings are the body’s attempt to break the monotony. Remember, eating a variety of foods is optimal to get all the necessary vitamins and minerals.
Prevention: Eating nutritious food doesn’t have to mean boring. There’s no need to try a new recipe every night, but do try to switch up the favorites you feel comfortable cooking with different spices or sauces and try to pick out a new recipe or two every week.
You just really want it
Sometimes, you just really want cookies or ice cream or a hamburger because, well, it’s delicious! Typically, this type of craving isn’t as intense, but persists a long time if unfulfilled and you can’t pinpoint any other reasons for it.
Prevention: Why prevent it? Food is delicious and meant to be enjoyed! Accept the fact that it’s a food you desire, eat the tastiest version of it and enjoy it mindfully so you can obtain the maximum amount of pleasure from it!