A lot of people struggle with food cravings. And as cravings are my specialty, my clients often ask me what causes food cravings, and how to prevent cravings.
I decided to write this blog to explore and explain these important topics.
It seems like nothing much at first – that pang for something sweet at morning tea, and your feeling that you ‘need something sweet after dinner’.
But think about it more deeply, and you might realise that you are:
- seeking out caffeine and sugar for energy,
- needing chocolate for comfort (or that time of the month),
- wanting something crunchy when you’re stressed, or
- needing a glass of wine to help you de-stress and relax.
Suddenly, life seems full of cravings.
But rather than use a ‘band-aid’ solution, you know you really want to deal with the root cause and stop cravings for good.
So what are food cravings, what causes food cravings, and how do you prevent food cravings?
What is a Craving?
A craving is an overwhelming desire to consume a specific food.
This desire is usually fuelled by feel-good brain chemicals such as dopamine, which are released when you eat certain types of foods.
Giving in to your craving can create a rush of euphoria that feels good – and one which your brain seeks over and over.
A craving is different from normal, physical hunger. Your craving may or may not be related to specific hunger – it could be emotional. Emotional hunger is sudden, while physical hunger is gradual.
Food cravings are a common everyday experience. Yet, they can pose significant health risks for some people.
What Causes Cravings?
By understanding what causes cravings, you’re in the prime position to prevent cravings.
If you relate to any of these causes of cravings, then you have a clue as to where to start taking control.
Your Hormones Are Out of Balance
Insulin is your fat storage and cravings hormone. When insulin is imbalanced, it leads to cravings for “avalanche foods”, those that you can’t stop eating once you start, such as ice-cream and chocolate.
The #1 way to prevent cravings is to balance your hormones with healthy eating.
Leptin is your satiety hormone. When leptin is imbalanced, then your hunger and satisfaction can be disrupted – you might be always hungry, never hungry, or never ‘satisfied’ after a meal. The response varies between men and women.
Ghrelin is your hunger hormone. When ghrelin is imbalanced, especially combined with a lack of sleep which leads to more ghrelin production, you can become almost psychopathic with hunger.
Cortisol is your stress cravings hormone. When cortisol is imbalanced, it pushes up insulin production so your body starts storing fat, and, it prevents you from burning fat no matter what diet or exercise you do. And comfort food cravings may be your body’s attempt to put the brake on chronic stress!
You Have a Sluggish Liver
The liver is responsible for eliminating excess hormones and keeping your metabolism firing.
A person with a sluggish or fatty liver usually has hormonal imbalances and therefore, symptoms such as:
- Excess body fat especially around the middle
- Sleep and mental disturbance
- Mood swings
- Digestive challenges
You Don’t Get Enough Good Quality Sleep
Do you crave high-calorie or sweet foods when you are sleep deprived?
This is a double-edged sword, because
- when you are tired, you need more energy, and sweet or carb-rich food can provide a quick hit
- when you are tired your decision making process can let you down – cravings for unhealthy foods are harder to resist.
You Struggle With Emotional Upsets
Food cravings are often caused by emotional upsets.
Scientific research shows that when people have difficulty identifying the emotion they’re experiencing and ways to deal with it, they’re more prone to cravings.
The more readily we can express our emotions, the healthier our bodies, hearts and minds will be.
Are you an emotional eater? Here are two questions that will help you find out:
- Do you find your self-seeking comfort and fulfillment in food when you are emotional?
- Do you find it difficult to identify and express your emotions?
How Do You Prevent Food Cravings?
Now that we’ve looked at the causes of food cravings, the ways to prevent food cravings are pretty clear.
The causes of food cravings are different for everyone, so before you try to prevent food cravings, you will need to:
- Get motivated – by working out why you want to control cravings
- Identify your priorities – keep a diary to work out what causes YOUR specific cravings
- Tackle your cravings one at a time, so you have the greatest chance for success.
I’d love to say that it’s quick and easy to prevent food cravings, but as you can see, it depends on what drives them for you, and how many things need to be addressed.
Do You Need Help to Prevent Food Cravings?
If at any of these reasons resonate with you, you probably have a very good reason to seek help so you can take the right actions and get the right support to understand and prevent food cravings.
- Cravings are annoying and tough to manage and willpower is simply not enough.
- Some of the causes are hard to see or hard to deal with
- Some of the causes will keep you stuck unless you deal with them-
Whether you want to feel more in control, get your body back, be more energized or simply lose a few kilos, it’s important to find out exactly what’s going on for you, and to take the first steps to successfully prevent food cravings.
If you need help to get on top of things, please contact me for more information!
Irena is passionate about helping busy professionals crack the food cravings code so they can take back control of their weight, body and life.