Why Cravings Happen and How to Control Them

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Why Cravings Happen and How to Control Them

Have you ever found yourself fighting to keep from eating the whole bag of broccoli?  Probably not. What about struggling to put down that box of Oreos? Or that bag of chips?  Sounds more like it, right? 

Scientifically, foods which include high palatability like sugar, high-fat, or high-salt foods can cause an alteration of chemicals in the brain and develop a physical craving for these foods.  The reasons for why an individual may crave foods, or even have an addiction to food, can vary, but most often it stems from a response to an emotional trigger. 

Many people say that foods are as addictive as certain drugs, and this can be very much true, but before that food became addictive, there were most likely triggers in place regarding emotions felt, or situations you found yourself in, that produced that need for that particular food (or drink).

Some signs to look out for if you feel you struggle with cravings or addictions are:

  1.     Seeing foods as “good” or “bad.”
  2.     Eating in secret or sneaking food into your day
  3.     “Rewarding” yourself with food
  4.     Feeling disgusted, guilty, or upset after eating

It is not abnormal for these feelings to happen, and you are not wrong for feeling this way, but they can turn into detrimental habits to your health both physically and emotionally.  Enough with the reasons WHY we crave these foods, how can we kick these nasty habits and finally move forward towards our goals?

  1.  Set boundaries with unsafe foods – Typically, if something is a “trigger” food, these foods must be deleted from the diet.  If you tend to binge eat ice cream when you get upset or are stressed, then it’s best not to keep ice cream in the house. It must be relearned how to manage these foods more healthily, but before that can happen, you must abstain from them for some time.
  2. Learn healthier coping strategies – Start paying attention to what causes your cravings.  What place are you in? What emotion are you feeling? Figure them out and start building different responses.
  3. Distract yourself – When you feel those cravings coming on, watch an episode of your favorite TV show, go for a walk or to a class at OCF, organize something, take a nap, or drink a whole glass of water! 
  4. Make yourself happy – Cravings and addictions are usually associated with negative feelings or moods.  Also, it is impossible for your body to create cortisol (our stress hormone) when you are laughing. So do something you love!
  5. Try replacing it with a healthier option – Instead of eating a whole piece of Portillo’s chocolate cake, why not try just having a little square of dark chocolate to curve your sweet tooth?  Or instead of a glass of wine at night, why not try some hot tea or even kombucha in a wine glass??

So before the cravings get the best of you, work on breaking up with them and find yourself healthier and happier!

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