Many people view cravings as weaknesses, but they might actually be important messages from your body, meant to help you find balance.
Understanding the common causes of cravings can make it easier to deconstruct them when they arise and do something about them. Let’s go through a few:
Water Intake – Consuming too little water can cause dehydration and this can lead to cravings as the body can misinterpret thirst for hunger.
Emotional Eating – Many different emotions can start a craving of any kind. Sometimes we think we want food, but we actually just want a hug. Emotional eating can stem from relationship frustration, career stress, boredom, being a victim of abuse, living in a high-anxiety environment and countless other things.
Food Additives – It’s in the manufacturer’s best interest to keep us wanting to eat more of their food. The unfortunate reality is that some companies even hire scientists to study how best to keep us addicted. They find that sweet pleasure spot of just enough sugar, salt, crispiness and other chemical food additives that keep us coming back for more. Sometimes, getting a craving is not your fault, or your choice, but you do have complete control of whether you eat that manufactured food in the first place.
The Past – Have you ever visited the town you grew up in and be flooded with childhood memories only to find yourself craving for things you ate when you were younger? That’s your inner child calling out.
The Weather – Summer is normally associated with fruits, raw cooling foods and ice cream cravings. Winter normally sees us wanting warm comforting foods and heavier carb laden foods like pasta.
State of Health – When the body lacks a certain nutrient, it makes you crave foods that contain it.
Hormones – It’s common knowledge that pregnancy can make a woman ask for the strangest combinations of food. Going through menopause and menstruation can also have them craving weird things. Unfortunately for women, there are only a limited number of years in her life when hormones aren’t one of the suspects to blame.
For most people, it’s the sugar cravings they struggle with. This can cause huge problems when it comes to weight management.
Sugar, which studies have shown is eight times more addictive than cocaine, often offers us a quick energy fix but not much else.
In fact, after the quick fix, we crash, which leads us to crave even more. It’s an endless, vicious cycle.
Not only is sugar addictive, it leaches minerals and nutrients from the body, is massively inflammatory and leads to mood swings, fatigue, and of course, weight gain.
Some people consume artificial sweeteners in lieu of sugar because they are low in calories, but these can be even worse for your health. Artificial sweeteners slow down the metabolism and interfere with our endocrine system. They cause bloating, weight gain, water retention, and digestive distress.
If you use artificial sweeteners, I suggest switching to stevia immediately.
Stevia is a natural sugar that does not lead to blood sugar imbalances or cause candida overgrowth in the gut. It’s made from a leaf native to South America.
You can also try raw organic honey. However, even “healthier” sugars such as honey and coconut sugar can raise glucose levels, so use them sparingly if you are trying to shed kilos. Thankfully, there are many ways you can deal with and reduce your cravings.
- Get in the mindset that it might be because of an addictive substance, like in the case of sugar, and you may be experiencing temporary withdrawal symptoms. Power through! You can do it!
- Eat healthy fats and protein at each meal to sustain your energy levels so you don’t find yourself reaching out for a quick sugar high
- Be sure to hydrate adequately
- Don’t skip meals. When you are super hungry, it’s easy to make poor choices.
- Get enough sleep. We all eat more when we’re tired
- Read the food labels to know what you’re eating. Look for hidden sugars and chemicals that might be secretly triggering your cravings
Ask yourself if you’re craving something else besides food. Find healthier ways to “treat yourself”. Some suggestions you could try include:
- Nutrient-dense protein balls made from dates
- Some low-glycaemic fresh fruits like berries, green apples and grapefruit.
- A cup of herbal tea, with stevia
- Non- food rewards like a foot massage or calling a friend
When to see your doctor
If, despite all this, you still have cravings that are very persistent, you could also consider a consultation with your doctor to determine if nutrient deficiencies and/or hormones are the cause.
There are also a few other scenarios when persistent cravings might be a sign of underlying disease:
- If you are craving water, it could mean an early sign of diabetes. This is a far more pronounced thirst that’s also coupled with excessive urination. When you have extra sugar in the blood, your kidneys have to work harder to filter and absorb that sugar. But sometimes they can’t keep up, so the sugar gets diverted into the urine leading to more frequent pee breaks and increased thirst.
- If you are craving salt, it could be a sign of Addison’s disease. The average person gets more than enough salt from their diets. Intense salt cravings could mean that the adrenal glands, which sit on top of the kidneys, don’t produce enough hormones like cortisol, which helps the body respond to stress, and aldosterone, which keeps blood pressure balanced. Left untreated, Addison’s disease can make your blood pressure drop dangerously low.
- If you are craving sand or other non-food items, this could mean an iron deficiency. Craving things with no nutritional value—sand, paper, clay, dirt, etc—is a phenomenon known as pica.
Cravings are something all of us struggle with at times, so you’re not alone if this is something you’re dealing with.
Because cravings can be triggered by so many different things, not just the things in the list above, it’s a good idea to keep a food journal. This will help you become more in tune with what you’re craving, what you’re eating and what may be missing in your diet or life that might be causing them. You don’t have to be a slave to your cravings and they don’t need to be a cause of frustration when it comes to weight loss.