We all have experienced cravings at some point in our life. Cravings are oftentimes associated with negative feelings, such as guilt, shame, or a feeling that we’re out of control. However, cravings can also offer us an insight into our physical and emotional well-being, especially as we learn to listen to our body.
In the video below I’m sharing some common causes of cravings and how we can address them effectively.
Cravings can have different causes
There’s a difference between cravings that indicates a misinterpretation of our appetite signals and those that indicate a true need.
Being stuck in any single, strict food ideology could lead to nutritional imbalances. Our nutritional needs change in different life stages and depend on our lifestyle and current health status. When the nutrients we need are not being offered through the food we consume, our body will start craving them. For example, high protein and low carb diets create a craving for carbohydrates.
Balancing our nutrition and planning our meals better will lead to more satisfaction and the cravings will naturally reduce.
Cravings can be caused by addiction to certain foods. Sugar is an addictive ingredient and acts as a drug in the brain. Whenever we are addicted to sugar, a certain sense of loss of control can occur. We might just want to have a bite of the cake, but find ourselves finishing the entire piece in no time. Sugar consumption creates more cravings for sugar. Whenever a craving is caused by addiction, certain willpower is needed, and we need to make sure we don’t have temptations around us.
Allergy or food intolerances
We can also crave food that we’re intolerant of. Oftentimes, by consuming this food, our symptoms are relieved for a short while, before we experience more unpleasant symptoms, such as indigestion, lethargy, or headaches. One way to deal with this type of craving is by going on an elimination diet or by having a food journal, so we can identify the foods that cause us issues. To avoid withdrawal symptoms, it can be helpful to have just a bite of the substance – enough to reduce the cravings, but not enough to cause negative symptoms.
We can crave certain foods we are used to consume at a certain time of day or location. For example, if you’re used to having coffee in the afternoon, accompanied by something sweet – this is rather a habit that creates the craving. To deal with the craving we need to change the habit. In the example above, it could be possible to change the coffee for tea and the sweets for a piece of fruit.
A lot of times cravings are a response to our current emotional state. We know that chocolate is linked to love, and we might crave chocolate when we crave love. Stress for example can lead to cravings for something salty or crunchy. The action of chewing something can help relieve tension.
Cravings can be installed early in our childhood. The relationship we had with food, the way it was presented to us (as a reward for being good, or as a bribing tool) can affect the way we respond to food. But also, whenever we feel insecure or need to feel protected and taken care of, we might crave our favorite food from childhood, to remind us of those times, when we were nurtured and protected.
When we eat we don’t feed only ourselves but also the millions of bacteria in our gut. We now that our gut microbiome can influence our brain through the gut-brain axis, and in this sense the bacteria in our gut can influence the food choices we make. Candida for example feeds on sugar, and can lead to increased cravings for sugar and simple carbohydrates.
How to deal with cravings
The first step is to become aware whenever a craving kicks in. Asking ourselves why we are eating certain food can help us stop and think of our actions and where they stem from.
Brining more awareness to our food choices is the first step towards addressing cravings properly.
Once we know the cause of our craving, we can address it in an appropriate way.