How To Understand Your Food Cravings & The Internal Battle With The Chocolate Bar
Trying to understand you food cravings can be a very challenging task. There are a lot of reasons why you might suddenly have a hankering for maybe potato chips, or perhaps you’re like me and after a stressful day all you want is be comforted with some carbohydrates. Cravings are definitely a pain. You can be doing so well and then all of a sudden out of the blue you get this craving and you start thinking “ I want carbs, right now!!!” And I’m sure you all are well aware just how hard it is to ignore a craving like this.
Not all food cravings are your body trying to tell you what you need eg: a big bowl of carbs. In fact more often than not they are connected to our emotions or an issue, which you are trying to block out. You might be thinking that a few burgers and a bowl of pasta are ok every now and then, and you’re completely right. However, the key is every now and again, and as you choose but not when you are just responding to a craving. So the key is to learn to understand your food cravings. If you don’t they will likely get more and more intense.
The first step to understanding your food cravings is to start paying attention to your eating habits, that is become your own personal detective. It’s all pretty straight forward as there are different tools available to help you decipher your food cravings. Or if that all sounds too hard just book in with me for a session and I can do all the hard work! Haha.
Emotional Food Cravings:
Women apparently experience more food cravings than men and it is believed that this is caused by our tendency to hold onto our emotions or internalise issues. This doesn’t surprise me. We can use food as a way to mask or distract our true feelings and we can be guilty of putting our emotions and/or issues to one side while we indulge in a little ice cream, chocolate or our poison of choice.
So the more you understand your food cravings the more power you have to overcome any stressful or emotional issues without adding any extra kgs. You will also learn to understand your emotional triggers and the strategies that will help you to move forward.
The Truth Behind Cravings and Nutrient Deficiencies
There is a basic rule of thumb when it comes to food cravings: if you’re eating a balanced and healthy diet, your cravings are probably due to an emotional need your not fulfilling. I’m sure you have all heard someone say they’re craving chocolate because they need magnesium or maybe that juicy steak has their name on it because they’re low in iron. It’s an interesting theory, one that I too believed, but I’ve come to realise that it’s a big fat myth. When your craving chocolate or steak or any other kind of specific food, your generally experiencing this due to some kind of emotional issue that is in the background. If you actually stop and think to your self, “how am I doing right now”, you maybe surprised at the emotions that may surface.
The Most Common Food Cravings:
There are a few food cravings that are really common and in order to help you start to understand this issue I have listed and also a few points as to why you might be experiencing that particular craving.
It turns out that chocolate is the number one food people crave. Funny that. Maybes it’s because it tastes delicious or is it because it’s promoted as a gift of love?
Well it is no surprise that we crave chocolate when we’re feeling a little blue as it contains phenyl-ethylamine, which is a chemical that improves your mood and makes you feel happy. Basically there’s no way around this craving if you’re female! No I’m only joking, you just need to make sure your expressing your emotions and getting enough connection and love in your life. I make sure I have some of my healthy chocolate foods around so that if I crave chocolate, I can instead have some cacao avocado mouse, cacao smoothie or some homemade hazelnut Nutella on toast. You’re totally craving chocolate now aren’t you?
The craving for sweet food has dramatically increased over recent years as we have been propositioned with so many foods full of added sweeteners. In fact as a result of this we now expect and crave a high sugar diet. We use to get enough sugar from the fruit we ate. However, as the the common diet now contains more processed and therefore sugar laden foods than natural whole foods, our palate has also evolved. The issue with this is that the more sweet food that we eat the more we crave. When we start craving sweets we’re reacting to this trend and maybe also searching for some kind of connection, comfort or happy feeling. The sugar makes us feel good and gives us that boost that we’re wanting.
Cheese or Dairy Products:
I know how hard it is to remove dairy, especially cheese from your diet. I had to do this as I turned Vegan. Cheese can be quite addictive and this is due to the ingredient Tyramine, which is a stimulant that, surprise surprise, makes you feel good. It also contains choline, which is very soothing, and lactose, which is energising. So when you eat cheese you feel good, are soothed and also get a burst of energy. No wonder we’re all crazy about our cheese.
Fat is a very common food craving that is associated with feelings of emptiness. You’ll probably find yourself reaching for fatty foods when you’re feeling alone or if you’re missing something in your life. We also reach for fat when we are stressed, as just eating fatty foods relaxes us and is calming and grounding. Next time you feel yourself reaching for some fatty foods, look instead for healthy and natural sources such as avocados, almonds and olive oil. Pay attention when you start to crave these foods and see if you can’t spot or work on the reason/issue first.
Salty and Crunchy Foods
This is probably another food craving that everyone has felt. I know I have been drawn to those salty and crunchy chips, especially when I’m angry or agitated. It really is very satisfying biting into something, so trust me I get it. Now you might think that you are craving salt because you are low in sodium but the truth is that we’re actually getting too much salt in our diets these days. Next time your craving something salty or crunchy think about you emotions and don’t be surprised if you are feeling a little frustrated, angry or stressed. Try and reach for carrot or celery sticks with almond butter instead of the potato chips. This is a much healthy option.
As I mentioned earlier, carbohydrates are definitely my go to when I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, and I’m sure this isn’t unique to me! Carb rich foods make you feel good when you eat them and give you that pick-me-up. Of course I love healthy unrefined carbohydrates such as quinoa and sweet potatoes but they’re not the ones you crave are they? I wish I would crave a big quinoa salad after a stressful day, but truth be told I want a bowl of pasta and that’s the only thing that will cut it. The second issue with stress and carbs is that when you are stressed your body secretes cortisol and the downside of this is that it can make you even more stressed and anxious, leading to an even bigger craving – definitely not ideal.
How to Overcome Your Food Cravings:
So you’re now aware of some of the different types of cravings that exist and you probably know which ones you’re prone to, or currently experiencing. So with that in mind, next time you’re feeling a craving approach or you’re in a situation which might bring on a craving i.e. stress at work, take a look at this list and start trying different strategies to see which may help you overcome your particular food craving.
- Take a pause. Yes, this does sound very simple, but generally it’s the small things that have the biggest impact. So take a few breaths, think about why you might be experiencing the craving and then relax and let it pass. If it doesn’t work, go eat a cookie….no I’m just joking, give it some time. I find this one the most helpful. As I mentioned earlier I experience the most cravings when I’m coming down from stress and so taking a breather and letting my body relax can be enough to let the craving go.
- Distract yourself. Go for a walk, read a magazine, run a bath. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it distracts you from scoffing a large bag of cookies. I find taking a shower is a great distraction and by the time I’m finished I’ve forgotten about my craving. Obviously this would be a little hard in a middle of a workday, so do what works for you and see if you cant ‘walk it off’ (quiet literally).
- Drink a big glass of water. Dehydration can be a big cause of food cravings and sometimes all you need is a glass of water and you’re good to go. This is one of the first things I do whenever I’m hungry or developing a food craving. Give it a go, and hey if it doesn’t work at least you’ve ticked off part of your water quota for the day.
- Keep a food cravings journal. You probably haven’t kept a dairy since you were back at school, but journaling is on the come back. I feel like if I keep saying it, then maybe it will catch on. My poor clients who get told to keep food and emotion diaries know all about this. Taking the time to write down how you’re feeling and why you might be feeling that way can be very powerful, just look at my article on “Morning pages” to see the impact journaling can have.
- Make sure you have plenty of relaxation options in your life. I personally love exercise, a long beach walk, a warm bath or a cup of tea and a book to relax. Having these tools in place to de-stress you will also stop the build up of stress.
- Have a diet rich in gluten free and natural carbohydrates – like quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice, pumpkin and kumara. They’re all delicious and will give you that feel good factor while also adding a lot of nutrients to your diet.
- Say No to dairy and Cheese: once you make the commitment and say no to dairy, your body wont crave it anymore. The more you eat the more you crave. Head over to my article on “Why I became Vegan” to read up on the negative affects dairy can have on your body and say no to dairy for good. My favourite dairy free alternatives, that I love especially when I’m craving something creamy and cheesy, are or Nutritional Yeast. Also try some almond milk and coconut yogurt to completely remove the dairy from your diet.
- Try cutting out sugar for a few weeks. Trust me it gets easier and once you get past the initial week you will start to feel your cravings reduce and a piece of ripe fruit will soon be enough to satisfy your sweet craving. Also when your craving sweets, look for something that will bring you joy and use that to realise the dopamine instead. Try adding some natural sweet food alternatives to your diet such as fruit, banana, nice-cream or fruit smoothies.
At first understanding your food cravings can seem daunting and maybe a little scary. However, the more we learn to understand ourselves the more we can learn to be the best version of ourselves, and not let issues bottle up. We all get food cravings every now and then and that’s ok, but if you find yourself struggling everyday to battle your cravings maybe its time to look a little closer at what’s going on in your life and why you might be experiencing these cravings.
Right, I have a challenge for you as usual. Now don’t hate me for it, but I really want you to please, pretty please, keep a food and emotion journal. It can be a small, little pocket notebook that you keep with you and then whenever you feel some kind of emotion bubbling over, get the notebook out and write, write, write. Try to make connections and maybe, just maybe you’ll figure out that when your angry you crave a king size black forest chocolate bar or perhaps stress causes you to eat carbohydrates like its nobodies business.
So, good luck with the journaling and as always please comment below, I would love to know how you found this article and if you have any words of wisdom or experiences that you would like to share.
Thanks for reading. Head over to my Blog for more articles on leading a healthy and happy life, or check out my recipe section for lots of delicious recipes that utilise whole plant foods and nutrient rich ingredients.
Thanks, Renee xx