Updated: Oct 18
We all have cravings for certain foods. Whether it’s that burger after a late night out, the heartwarming stew gran makes, or that vegan brownie the coffee shop next door started selling, it’s sometimes hard to say no. This often leads to overeating and poor food choices that sabotage our overall health and wellbeing. This article is written with the intention of helping you understand the causes behind these cravings and to provide some easy-to-follow strategies on how to overcome them. Following these tips may help you maintain a balanced diet and improve your overall health.
What Causes Food Cravings?
I believe there are a multitude of reasons why we have cravings for certain foods and that it has a lot to do with our upbringing, our lifestyle, and our social circles—even the place we live in. However, I’d like to mention 3 key factors that are more tangible and that hopefully you can relate to:
Appetite in general, and more specifically, cravings, are directly linked to hormonal imbalances. More accurately, hormones will often take over and gain complete control over our desires and even our senses, especially smell and taste. Ghrelin, also known as the "hunger hormone” will usually stimulate appetite and cause a possible craving, whereas leptin on the other hand sends our brains signals of fullness. As you can see, an imbalance in even just these two hormones can result in persistent cravings, particularly for high-calorie, sugary foods.
I’m almost certain that at some point during your lifetime you’ve had moments where food felt like the only comfort you could find. I know I’ve definitely found myself going through a whole tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream after a breakup only to soothe my pain with a few minutes of delicious frozen pleasure. You see, we are emotional beings who at the same time have a strong sense of connection with our senses. Combine that with a society that largely revolves around food, and it’s not difficult to see why many of us find refuge in certain foods. With stress, anxiety, and a wide range of trauma nowadays being some of the main triggers for unhealthy binge eating, food remains, unconsciously at least, our go to coping mechanism. More specifically, foods that are high in sugar and fat often provide an even “better” sense of comfort and pleasure, making them more appealing during times of emotional distress. This is what’s also known as emotional eating.
Leaving emotions aside for a bit, let’s not forget that our bodies are these truly magnificent organisms with many incredibly intelligent mechanisms set to keep us alive and thriving. One of the ways our bodies and minds work together to protect us from nutrient deficiencies is through cravings. When our bodies lack essential nutrients, they may seek out specific foods to help them meet these needs. For example, craving chocolate could be a sign of magnesium deficiency, while craving salty foods might indicate a need for more sodium or iodine in the diet. This is why maintaining a balanced diet of whole, living foods is crucial for our wellbeing, as it provides our bodies with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and all sorts of healthy nutrients necessary for keeping us healthy and vibrant.
Simple Yet Effective Strategies to Manage Cravings
Now that we (hopefully) have a better understanding of the different ways our minds, bodies, and even our emotions are connected to food and the reasons behind food cravings, let's look at some practical ways to deal with them:
As a kid, my grandmother would constantly remind me to eat slower. Not that elders always know better, but she was right with this one. Eating slowly and, more importantly, mindfully helps us be more aware of our body’s hunger and fullness cues, making it easier to distinguish between true hunger and cravings. By paying attention to the taste and texture of the food, chewing each bite thoroughly, and maintaining a sense of calmness while eating, we become more aware of our body's signals while supporting the digestion process.
Addressing Nutrient Deficiencies
Deficiencies are a whole subject on their own, about which I’ll have to write a full article. For now, what I can say is that eating a variety of fresh fruits, soft leafy greens, and smoothies fortified with chia and hemp seeds, accompanied by enough exposure to the sun and ideally some fresh spring water, should suffice in keeping you nutrient efficient. Nevertheless, seeing as most of us live in environments that are not supportive of this lifestyle, it’s important to pay attention to your energy levels, mood, and physical cues that may be indicative of deficiencies. If you’re unsure, research first and seek advice from professionals who are able to test accurately for possible deficiencies.
Now that we understand how stress, emotions, and other factors contribute to food cravings, it’s crucial to support ourselves with practices that not only reduce stress but also help us reconnect to our inner life force and balance. There are a myriad of different techniques out there designed to fit any budget, schedule, and personality type, and nowadays that the whole health and wellness industry is booming, it’s impossible not to find something that suits your needs. I’m of the belief that daily movement, in the form of light exercise and stretching, especially outside, is the single best way to support our physical, emotional, and spiritual harmony and wellbeing. Other ways include breathing exercises or meditation, creative expression (writing, journaling, drawing, singing, etc.), and simply doing more of the things we love and that make us happy. By finding alternative ways to cope with stress, we can greatly reduce the likelihood of turning to food for comfort.
Don’t be too hard on yourself when cravings take over and you end up indulging in something that may not be ideal. It may just be a sign your body is missing something or that there’s an underlying hormonal imbalance calling for your attention. Being connected to your body in such a way that you’re able to hear it whisper means you won’t ever have to hear it scream. Remaining mindful while eating and maintaining a balanced diet of whole, living foods is your key to a healthy relationship with your body and a deficiency free life. Sometimes it may also be necessary to get support from a healthcare professional who can test for possible deficiencies. If you’re unsure about any of this, you can also book your Free 15-minute discovery call with me, and we can discuss in more detail how I may be able to help. Whether you’re looking to lose excess weight or improve your energy levels all while helping your skin shine, book a call today as I may be able to help.
Love, Light & Joy,