What Cravings Mean and How to Combat Them

What is one of the hardest parts about trying to lose weight and eat healthily? Cravings. Whether you crave chocolate, bread, or carbs in general, it’s usually something we’re trying to eat less of. 


Why do we have these specific cravings? We’re here to answer that question- keep reading to find out!


Why we get cravings

Cravings are our body’s way of signaling to us that something is wrong. While it doesn’t necessarily mean anything life-threatening is wrong, it’s enough to make our body signal us to do something about it. There are several theories as to why we get cravings. None have been proven correct, but maybe it’s because it works a little differently for each body. 


Here are a few theories as to why we may experience cravings:


  • Hormone imbalance: Hormones run our bodies, so it isn’t surprising that a potential imbalance is why we’re craving foods. Experts suspect that leptin and serotonin are the hormones responsible. Leptin is the hormone that regulates fat storage and how many calories you burn (how much energy you use). It helps control satiety or how full you are. Low levels of leptin cause hunger, while high levels keep you satisfied. Serotonin is known as the happiness hormone because it is associated with being happy and generally well. Food is known to cause happiness, so it makes sense that low levels of serotonin may trigger hunger and cravings. 


  • Nutrient deficiencies: Many experts believe that your body craves what it’s missing. Our bodies are continually trying to return to homeostasis, and have deficient nutrients is an excellent explanation as to why we crave such specific foods. When you’re dehydrated, you become thirsty and drink water. So why can’t it work the same for food and nutrients?


  • All in our heads: Another theory suggests that cravings sometimes may be in our heads. Do you ever pass by a fast-food restaurant and suddenly crave a burger? It’s likely our brains recall the pleasure of eating a hamburger, making you crave that feeling again!


What does it mean when I crave ____?

Not all cravings are created equal. Specific cravings can be linked to specific reasons. Here are a few of the most common cravings we get and how to satisfy them:


  • Carbs: Craving carbs may be a sign that your blood sugar is low. Carbohydrates provide quick energy for your body because they are broken down by insulin.


Solution: Carbs! Having a stable blood sugar is essential, so give your body what it needs! Give your body high-quality carbs such as whole wheat and whole grains, and foods high in fiber. Not only do these keep your blood sugar from spiking, but they also keep you full longer.


  • Sweets: Similar to carbs, your body is likely craving sweets for a boost of energy. Sugary foods can cause your blood sugar to spike, leading to increased thirst and urination, fatigue, and headaches. Another reason for cravings is due to a sugar “addiction.” If you continuously eat sugary foods, your body is likely dependent on that for energy.


Solution: Kick the habit! If you want to stop craving sugary foods, you have to wean your body off of them. Try swapping out candy and snacks for fruit or other naturally sweet foods, such as cacao and smoothies (without added sugar). Kicking your sugar habit can be tough, but the results are so worth it!


  • Salty: Salty cravings can be tricky. The most common reasons for craving salty foods include dehydration, stress, and boredom. Constant and persistent salt cravings can be signs of an underlying disease, so check in with your doctor if you experience severe cravings.


Solution: Water first! Hydrating yourself should be the first step to stopping a salt craving. Like sugar, a salt craving can be the result of a high-salt diet that your body has become accustomed to. Try cutting out some salt in your diet and see if it makes a difference.


  • Just ANYTHING: You’re likely dehydrated! If you feel hungry, even after just eating, try having a glass of water and waiting 20 minutes. If your hunger subsides, then it was thirst being confused with hunger (which happens a LOT more often than we’d think).


Yes, cravings can be annoying and frustrating, especially when you get an intense chocolate craving at 11 am, but does that mean we should give in to them? It depends. It doesn’t hurt to give in to the occasional salty snack craving, but it’s also important to notice any trends. If you experience your cravings regularly and they still persist after eating, consult your doctor to rule out any underlying conditions.


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