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Posted July 15th, 2016 under Nutrition

Why Do We Have Cravings And How To Overcome Them

Tags: cravings, nutrition

Why Do We Have Cravings And How To Overcome Them

Why Do We Have Cravings And How To Overcome Them

 

What are cravings?

Cravings are normal because food is more than just fuel it affects us on both emotionally and physiologically levels. Unfortunately cravings can be setbacks in achieving our health goals because most the time we crave calorie-rich foods high in sugar and fat instead of nutrient-dense foods. The exact cause of food cravings is difficult to pinpoint because there are many theories to why we develop them but no scientific study that proves one theory to be 100% accurate. Some theories include:

-Nutritional deficiency {before food cravings were even being scientifically researched and studied it was believed that a craving was a sign of a nutrition deficiency but in light of evidence suggesting other reasoning the prevalence of this theory has reduced significantly.}

-Dehydration {when we are dehydrated it can be mistaken for hunger which can lead to snacking mindlessly without an identifiable trigger.}

-Emotional factors {some people use food as a coping strategy for stress/depression and seek out and crave comfort foods high in fat and carbs.}  

-Hormones {women especially can experience cravings during pregnancy or when they are close to menstruation because of the hormone levels changing.}

-Low blood glucose {sugar levels in the blood drop below a certain point and this tends to be caused by lack of food and trigger symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, cravings, etc. Your blood sugar can be thrown off by overloading on simple sugars like soda or candy or by having a long intense workout without refueling during the process.}

-Overly restrictive caloric intake {if you set overly restrictive calorie and food rules you are more likely to experience intense food cravings and if you give into those cravings it is harder to control overeating.}

-Sleep deprivation {studies have showed evidence that correlate sleep and health. These studies suggest that sleep-deprived participants getting less than 7 hours of sleep eat an average of 300 calories more per day. Inadequate sleep throws off your appetite hormones.  Ghrelin (hunger hormone) increases and leptin (satiety hormone) drops when you are sleep deprived.}

Again these are just theories that are not proven completely accurate and these are some tips to help when cravings happen.

We may not know the exact cause of cravings but there are some ways to try and control them.  Some of them are the following:

  1. Ask yourself whether you really must have the food that you are craving and make a reasonable decision. Make statements to yourself such as “I know I am not hungry and I do not need to eat a food just because I am thinking of it.” Every time you think about a food and do not give into the craving it will become easier.
  2. Drink a glass of water then give yourself 10-20 minutes before you reassess your craving
  3. Keep yourself busy and distract yourself. Some ideas are doing chores around the house, calling a friend, working out, taking a walk, or taking a bath.
  4. Make a plan to fit in the food that you crave into your daily and/or weekly plan. This will help you to look forward to eating the food rather than feeling guilty about it or binge eating.
  5. Purchase the food in small quantities. Do not put a complete ban on the food just limit the quantity to decrease the chances of overeating.
  6. If you tend to overeat the food you are craving eat with a friend or other people that support your goals. This can help you from overeating because you can also socialize and keep yourself distracted. Also like I mentioned before plan ahead and make it fit so you do not overeat and feel guilty.
  7. If you have a sweet tooth try to substitute a candy bar for a protein bar or other more nutrient dense foods that will satisfy your craving.
  8. Instead of turning to food in stressful situations try other nonfood methods to deal with stress such as a walk, meditating, talking to a friend, etc.
  9. Get enough sleep.
  10. Assess your situation. For instance if you crave ice cream and you just saw a commercial for ice cream you are most likely only craving ice cream because it is the image in your head that you just saw. 

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Written By:  Rebecca Desousa BS Nutritional Sciences

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