Understanding Cravings

Ah, cravings. We all get them. And sometimes cravings can be a really good thing, like when after a few weeks we crave a steak or red meat because our body wants those b vitamins and iron. But cravings can often get out of control, and sometimes it’s not even really not our fault. A lot of us immediately start to blame ourselves and say that we have no will power or self-restraint if we can’t resist a craving, but I think it’s much more important to figure out why we would be craving foods that we know aren’t good for us in the first place. So here are some of the top reasons why cravings are occurring.

  1. Under eating/under nourishing

    • Under eating is one of the biggest reasons we would have cravings for something. When our body is hungry or feels deprived of food, it sends out signals that tells you to feed it. And it usually wants the most calorically dense food possible because it’s hungry! So when you let yourself get to the point of being starving, we usually then want things like pizza and ice cream, etc. But under nourishing ourselves can also lead to cravings. You might be physically full, but if you didn’t eat some good quality fat in a meal or left off important vegetables or protein, your body still craves MORE. And that then can lead us to rifle through the pantry for popcorn or chips or chocolate when really, if we evaluate our plate we probably just left off a key macronutrient.
  2. Food allergies/ sensitivities

    • Did you know that if you are allergic or sensitive to a food you will actually crave it? Let’s take dairy for instance. So many of us have dairy sensitivities and yet we just can’t stop with wanting cheese. So why would this happen? Why would our bodies actually CRAVE something that doesn’t serve our bodies? When we are sensitive or allergic to something our body gets stressed when we eat it. When we get stressed our body releases endorphins to counteract this stress. Therefore, we then feel actually “happy” with the food (at least momentarily) and we then crave and want more of that feeling. Of course, dairy also tastes good so we could just want that taste again, but when there are so many other substitutes that taste equally as good, this explains why we keep going back to what is actually harming our body. Gluten is also a huge culprit.
  3. Mineral imbalances

    • When we aren’t eating foods with the proper minerals, which is very easy to do as our soil is now depleted of so many of the minerals it used to contain, and we eat a very small diet (around 17-20 foods versus our ancestors who ate between 300-1,000 different foods) then you can experience food cravings. The biggest one that most people (and usually all women) can relate to is chocolate cravings. Chocolate cravings are usually the result of a magnesium deficiency, since chocolate contains magnesium. If you are eating a good quality, high percentage dark chocolate, this really isn’t an issue. You are actually giving your body good magnesium with the chocolate. But turning that craving into a bowl of Ben and Jerry’s phish food will actually end up DEPLETING vitamins and minerals from your body as now your body needs to get out all of the excess sugar.
  4. Not eating the right macronutrient ratio

    • Everyone is unique and there is not a one size fits all diet. Some people need more fat in their diet, while others can tolerate additional carbs. And when you are just eating a meal plan that you found on the internet, you probably aren’t getting the correct balance of macronutrients that you need. A good starting point is this post, but from there, you want to assess how you feel on days where maybe you had more fat and less carbs, or the opposite. Because when you aren’t eating enough of a macronutrient (and truthfully, it’s usually fat), you start to CRAVE foods with fat. And you may then try to eat allllll the other things before you give in, but inevitably, you do give in. This used to be my issue with peanut butter. I wouldn’t allow myself to eat fat, and then eventually I would cave and just start eating peanut butter by the spoonful. So the next meal you have, try and make sure you have an abundance of good fats, protein and vegetables, and really assess if you have cravings afterwards. And if you do, is it because of habit? Or do you really NEED something else?
  5. Telling yourself you “can’t” eat something

    • This is like the story we’ve all probably heard about when someone tells you not to think of an elephant, and then all you can do is think of an elephant. When we tell ourselves that a food is off limits or we can’t have it, we can start to obsess over it and want it more than ever. This was my downfall when I first started paleo. I went all in and told myself I would NEVER eat gluten or sugar or dairy again. Well guess what, when the novelty wore off after about a week, all I wanted in this world was gluten and sugar. In fact, I was obsessing over a donut. And you know what? I don’t even like donuts that much! Back when I could eat a donut whenever I wanted to, I couldn’t really care less about them! But all of a sudden when you tell yourself you can never have a food that becomes the thing you most desire and most crave.
  6. Food additives and flavoring

    • When I said at the beginning that a lot of cravings aren’t our fault, this is the category I’m referring to. Food manufacturers are very smart. Their goal is to get you to keep buying their products. So they put chemicals in them to make us literally get addicted and keep us coming back for more. So it’s no wonder that we start to crave foods like Oreos- there are food scientists literally figuring out how to make our brains have a chemical response to them! This is why I really like people to do a Whole30 challenge or something similar where you just get out all of the chemicals/ processed foods in the house. It takes a few weeks, but after that your body and taste buds will re-set and you no longer will even really think these foods taste that good.

Thanks for reading! My goal is to get back on a more regular schedule now that I’m back from traveling.

Leave a comment below if you have any future blog posts you would like me to post about!

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