The food you crave: Understanding food cravings and overcoming them

Chips falling out of a bag

It’s 8pm. You’ve eaten dinner, and just turned on the TV to watch your favoriteClose-up of ruffle chips show, when it hits you. You MUST have chips! You try to ignore it for 30 minutes or so, but the salty, light-crisp-crunch-of-a-snack is calling you by name. The only problem is you’ve committed to a new weight loss program, and no food craving is going to stop you from reaching your goal this time. Not chips, not chocolate, not ice cream, nothing; and you do well for the first two weeks.

Ultimately, in a fit of annoyance from the persistence of the craving, you give in.

You have this thing under control, though. You’ll buy a bag of chips, only eat the serving size, and then everything will be fine. The craving will be gone and your diet won’t be ruined. Until….

Chips falling out of a bagYou power through the serving size and rationalize another. I mean, you worked out today, and you’ve done really well on this new program. A few more chips couldn’t possibly hurt you, and you can just cut a few extra calories tomorrow. It’ll all be fine.

And then the bag’s gone.

You’re left looking at the bottom of it, feeling oddly satisfied, yet guilty. Those chips were sooo good. And you haven’t really had a full stomach since starting this diet. However, now you feel soooo bad and plagued with thoughts like:

“How many pounds did that bag of chips just cost me? How long do I need to workout to work these calories off? Why did I do that?!”Head down sketch

There goes another diet, and here comes more frustration.

You are not a failure. You’re human. And that’s a good thing.

What are Food Cravings?

In short, they’re a response to a bodily need from either habit or lack of nutrients. What does that mean? Well, here’s few examples to explain both.

Finding Equilibrium

Macaroons balancingThe  body likes to be in balance and it’ll do what it needs to reach it. That’s why you sweat when it’s hot out and shiver when it’s cold. It’s your body’s way of adapting to the situation to keep you  from overheating or cooling. Nutrients are no different.

The reason we eat, is to live. There’s no doubt you’ve heard someone say “eat your fruits and veggies, so you grow big and strong.” While that’s a bit of an over-generalization of how those foods aid the body, it is true.

Food contains the vitamins and nutrients we need to survive. When we aren’t getting those things, we have a tendency to crave certain, sometimes odd foods. Once the nutrients have been replaced, the craving will typically go away. If it persists, however, you may want to visit your doctor. Your nutrient levels may be so low that the foods you’re consuming are not replenishing them well enough. Additionally, the specific food you’re craving may not be an appropriate fix to the lacking nutrient. An example of this is ice craving. Sure, ice is harmless enough. But is has no nutritional value, aside from hydrating you. It won’t provide you with the iron an anemic person needs to overcome their craving.

So what about the habit thing?

Well, that one’s a little more tricky. These cravings can range from something Stormtroopers finding balaceyou’re just used to doing, to something you can take countermeasures to prevent the cravings associated with them. An good example of this is rest.

I have several customers and friends who rely on caffeine to stay awake. Due to their daily lives they often do not get enough rest, and attempt to compensate with stimulants like coffee to keep them awake and alert. The thing about caffeine though, is it’s a drug. No, it’s not a hard drug. However, it can and does cause cravings when your body is used to having a certain amount each day. Consuming extra calories can have a similar effect.

Have you ever noticed you consume more calories the more tired you are? I have, and the reason is, your body uses calories as fuel.

Brain on junk foodWhen you’re more tired you need more energy. Therefore, our body will sometimes crave higher calorie foods to keep us fueled while we’re awake. You may not need that 800 calorie honey bun you’re suddenly in desperate need of, but your body sure thinks so. It’s doing it’s job by providing you with enough fuel to keep going, however if you’re in no need to use that 800 calories, on pack the pounds. You may even have trouble falling asleep once it’s time to. Plus, you’ve just potentially created an eating habit, in timing and food selection, you may eventually need to break.

Ever had a food you must have regularly?

I sure have. And in this case it Woman eating chocolatewasn’t because of a deficiency, it was because I was used to it. What was it? Cheese.

loooove cheese. And for most of my life, I had to have it on my sandwich, if I was going to eat one. And well, I ate sandwiches almost everyday. Now, you may be thinking “cheese isn’t so bad” and “isn’t calcium good for you.” You’re right about both of those things. When your sandwich already contains massive amounts of bacon and mayo slathered on both sides, you can probably do without the cheese, though.

It was a habit.

I was used to having cheese multiple times a day, so I did. When I didn’t have it, I’d eat a cheese sandwich or cheese slices before the day was out to fulfill my cheesy needs. My day didn’t seem complete without it. When you get to that point it’s a habit, and you have to get control of it.

But how?

Overcoming Food Cravings

Snail overcoming cliffAs we’ve explored, food cravings can come from various things. And while I am not a medical professional, I can speak from experience on how I overcame both types. And none of  them were too difficult.

The first, and possibly most unbelievable way to overcome food cravings, is to let yourself have them. Yup. I said it. Eat those chips. Consume that chocolate. Indulge in that ice cream. Just don’t overdo it.

The thing about diets is they’re unrealistic. You’re not always going to know Weighed down pepperhow many calories are in everything, you can’t always eat a short list of approved foods, and quite frankly you shouldn’t. Are the foods I named above perhaps not the healthiest of choices? Sure. If you enjoy them though, you should have them. Why? Because all to often if we deny ourselves the pleasure of the foods we enjoy completely, we’ll see a few weeks of success followed by a total backslide, similar to the one at the beginning of this article.

No one wants that. Especially you.

Instead, enjoy increasingly smaller portions, until you get to a healthy consumption of the food you crave. The results may not be as dramatic as your diet at first. The long term results, though, will be incredible and stable.

Your Mind on Social MediaThing two: GET ENOUGH REST. Yes, I know our lives are demanding. However how much time do you waste doing unnecessary things that keep you up longer than you should be? I’m not saying don’t have any fun. I am saying don’t stay up until 3 a.m. every night on Facebook knowing you have a 9 a.m. meeting. Facebook will be there tomorrow. Indulge in a healthy browse of the site and then get off until then. You’ll be amazed at how much those extra z’s will fuel you the next day and reduce the calories or caffeine you need to get through it. Trust me. Getting more rest alone led to me seeing a daily reduction in caloric intake of about 600 to 800 calories a day (aka i no longer craved sweets and candy constantly, thus I didn’t eat nearly as much of them).

Last and certainly not least….take a good multivitamin.Real Supplements

I’ll be the first to admit, I thought multivitamins were stupid. I saw no point in taking them, as I never saw any improvement in health on them and felt they were a waste of money. That was until I learned a bit more about vitamins, why you need them, and how to find one that works. I’ll be explaining a bit more about vitamins in my next article. Until then, know this: good multivitamins help to significantly control food cravings because they integrate the nutrients your body needs to properly reach equilibrium. Here’s a link to my personal favorite. Click it to save 40% off your order.

I hope all of this helps you to better control your food cravings. If you still find yourself in need of answers or simply want to share your food craving woes, feel free to comment below. I’d love to hear from you!