What Cravings Really Mean

Understanding what cravings are, how they affect you, and to be mindful of them when they are present. It’s more important to have a relationship with your cravings than try to ignore them.

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What do you crave the most? Are you more of a sweets person who loves ice cream and chocolate? Or does the saltiness of a burger and fries call out to you? Have you ever wondered why you have these cravings or where they come from?

Cravings are normal and generally everyone has them. Many are led to believe cravings are a negative thing or that we need to suppress/defeat them. But that doesn’t have to be the case! We don’t need to get rid of our cravings – we can learn to work with or through them! Cravings are something that we should understand and know how to handle.

Understanding Cravings

Being mindful is very important when it comes to your cravings. You must allow your mind to have a conversation with the thoughts and feelings that you have. What triggered this craving? Is this a craving or actual hunger? Am I just bored or stressed? Your body will tend to crave the foods that you regularly eat. If you always stop and get a cheeseburger and fries at the mall, you will set your brain up to strongly advise you to continue getting this meal any time you are at the mall. 1

Allow yourself a little time to assess, think about your health goals, weigh your options, and then make a decision from there. The main thing is to try not to act too quickly or impulsively. Usually cravings will pass as quickly as they popped into your head. And try not to get extreme one way or another, practice moderation. "When people follow restrictive diets or completely cut out groups of foods, cravings can become more intense and can lead to a vicious cycle of indulging, overeating and guilt. A balanced eating plan that allows foods you enjoy – even moderate amounts of high-fat, high-calorie foods – will be easier to maintain since you aren't eliminating those foods outright from your life." 3

4 Types of Cravings2

Did you know there were different types of cravings? I’m sure you’ve felt them before.

Tonic Craving: Have you ever given up chocolate? Or tried to stop eating out? Did it make you want that particular item more than ever? That is the feeling of a Tonic Craving. This is a feeling over time or in a particular moment (craving chocolate on a diet). Tonic cravings are higher in restrained eaters and increase after deprivation.

Cue Induced Craving: Your walking through the mall not even thinking about food. All of the sudden, you turn the corner and like a tidal wave hitting you, the smell of a cinnamon roll. Suddenly you’re hungry and can’t stop thinking about it. That is a Cue Induced Craving. This is when environment or external stimuli give you a temporary period of craving. This can be triggered visually, by smell, or by taste.

State Craving: Sometimes our cravings are random. Without rhyme or reason. Sometimes our cravings can even seem ridiculous to ourselves. These temporary cravings are known as State Cravings.

Trait Cravings: Similar to a state craving, but for an extended period of time. Have you ever gone days thinking about one particular food item. It may just be something you love in general or may be a phase. But something that is consistently craved in this way is known as a Trait Craving.

Differences Between Men and Women Cravings

Men and women are different when it comes to cravings – the types of food we crave, the intensity of the craving, and ability to deal with cravings. 20% of women who had food cravings say it’s easy to resist cravings compared to 50% for men. 2 Hormones also play a major role. For women, hormones are ebbing and flowing through the month and this can make our cravings change over that period too. For instance, in one study 74% women reported food cravings in the seven days before their period, compared to only 27% of women reporting craving after their period.2 So, if you’ve ever blamed your period for your intense chocolate cravings, don’t feel guilty.

10 Tips to Help With Cravings

  • You don’t always have to say no to something you really want. It’s ok to treat yourself! Allow yourself to indulge from time to time. Be mindful of what you eat but don’t feel like you need to deprive yourself.
  • Hunger vs. craving – have that conversation between your mind and feelings to decide what to do
  • Don’t beat yourself up when you give into your cravings. Enjoy it and move forward.
  • Keep yourself from getting hangry by having nutritious snacks on hand.
  • Don’t skip meals (otherwise you are hungrier by the next meal and may overeat), drink more and get more rest
  • Remove distractions, turn off the screens when you are eating
  • If your cravings are linked to a certain time of day/location/activity, change it up!
  • Stop when you feel satisfied.
  • When a craving strikes and you want to stay strong, distract yourself – call a friend, go for a walk, read a book
  • Accept your cravings. You’ll never control your cravings completely. All you can control is your reactions to them.

Curb Your Cravings in a Wholesome Way

  • SWEET: Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and dark chocolate
  • CHOCOLATEY: Black Bean Brownies (look it up, promise they are worth it) or Nutz Over Chocolate Luna Bar
  • SALTY: nuts, olives or lightly salted popcorn
  • CRUNCHY: roasted chickpeas, apples & peanut butter, rice cracker with cheese or hummus & veggies

Bottom line, you are not alone with your cravings, and you should never feel guilty for having them. If your favorite foods make you feel good, then enjoy them every once in a while

If you take away anything from reading this, it’s important to understand what cravings are, how they affect you, and to be mindful of them when they are present. It’s more important to have a relationship with your cravings than try to ignore them.

References

  1. Food Cravings: The Science Behind Them. (2017, January 11). Retrieved June 30, 2018, from http://n411.consultant360.com/...
  2. Hallama, J., Boswella, R. G., DeVitob, E. E., & Kobera, H. (2016). Gender-related Differences in Food Craving and Obesity. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine,161-173.
  3. Wolfram, T. (2018, February 13). How to Handle Food Cravings. Retrieved July 7, 2018, from https://www.eatright.org/healt...