Wellness Wednesday: Causes Of Food Cravings and Prevention Tips

Nothing can make you feel less in control of your eating than a craving. Learn the five most common causes of food cravings and prevention tips for each. 

Learn the five most common causes of food cravings and prevention tips for each

Are you convinced the bag of chips in your pantry somehow has the ability to call your name in a seductive voice, beckoning you to eat it all in one sitting? Maybe you think that pint of ice cream is emitting pheromones powerful enough to waft through the freezer door. Or maybe you just think you are an uncontrollable eating machine with no willpower when faced with a craving.

If so, this post is for you.

Food cravings are powerful. When you're craving something specific, it's hard to think of anything else or even function like a normal human being. I know, cause I've been there.

There are few things that can make you feel more powerless and less in control of your eating habits. It's especially guilt inducing for anyone who has ever dieted, since succumbing to food cravings generally means the end of a previously 'successful' diet.

We'll save how to handle a food craving for another post - I can't believe I haven't touched on it yet! For today, let's talk prevention for the five most common causes of food cravings.

Hunger

Hunger leaves you vulnerable to food cravings. It's your body's sign that you need energy, like, now. And when your body needs immediate energy, it's going to want it to come from a rapidly available source - i.e. processed carbs and sugar. So even though any food will do, you may perceive the solution to your craving as a very specific food.

Prevention: Don't let yourself get overly hungry. Practice the hunger scale to get in tune with your body's cues so you know when you're starting to get hungry. That way, you can make sure you've got food around before hunger hits.

Deprivation

Constantly telling yourself no? By creating a list of 'bad' foods, you're basically creating forbidden fruit and making it that much more tempting. The other problem is that by telling yourself you can't have a certain food, it makes you think about those off limit foods more frequently, which then triggers cravings. Try this experiment: don't think about the fudgy brownies sitting on your counter.

...You thought about fudgy brownies sitting on your counter, didn't you? And they probably sounded pretty delicious, right? Maybe you even thought to yourself how delicious a fudgy brownie would be right now? Easy to see where those cravings are coming from!

Prevention: Stop labeling food good and bad, healthy and unhealthy. Start to build a more flexible view of foods. Certainly, nutrient density and caloric content can be a part of how you value food, but remember that nourishing your soul with food is just as important as nourishing your body.

Emotions

Emotions can be a powerful trigger for food cravings, as everyone who has ever had a bad day can attest to. Food serves as a distraction from negative emotion. When you're eating cookies by the handful, you're not feeling sad/anxious/mad/stressed/lonely, you're feeling...well, numb. Also, eating fatty or high sugar foods releases happy hormones that can make you feel a little bit better...at least temporarily.

Prevention: Consider what your emotional triggers usually are and build activities into your day that help prevent those negative emotions. If you know you're a boredom eater at night, plan activities after dinner, like walking the dogs. If you're a stress eater, work on making meditation a daily habit. If you've been struggling with emotional problems triggering unwanted eating, you might consider keeping the food you tend to emotionally eat out of the house until you've had some time to address the underlying issue.

Boredom

Dieters tend to eat the same thing over and over again, probably because it's on the good list or because they've got it saved in their calorie tracker. Of course, this leads to boredom. Cravings are the body's attempt to break the monotony.

Prevention: Eating nutritious food doesn't have to mean boring. Hopefully the recipes I've shared on the blog have shown that by now! There's no need to try a new recipe every night, but do try to switch up the favorites you feel comfortable cooking with different spices or sauces and try to pick out a new recipe or two every week.

You just really want it.

Sometimes, you just really want cookies or ice cream or a hamburger because, well, it's delicious! Typically, this type of craving isn't as intense, but persists a long time if unfulfilled and you can't pinpoint any other reasons for it.

Prevention: 

Why prevent it? Food is delicious and meant to be enjoyed! Accept the fact that it's a food you desire, eat the tastiest version of it and enjoy it mindfully so you can obtain the maximum amount of pleasure from it! FYI - right now I am craving ice cream for this exact reason and have been the past few days. Planning on treating myself to a scoop or two of Sweet Cream Co in the near future!

[Tweet "Learn the five most common causes of food cravings and prevention tips for each"]

Now, I'd love to hear from you! Which one of these do you think is the main source of your food cravings? 

More posts like this: 

Lessons on Emotional Eating From a Very Bad, No Good, Horrible Week

Emotional Satiety

How to Never Cheat on Your Diet, Ever