Cravings! We all want to fix ’em right? They are annoying, uncomfortable, naggy, and sometimes all-consuming feelings that MUST. BE. ELIMINATED! We’ve heard plenty about how we can stop sugar cravings, don’t really need THAT much protein and that we should minimize fat and calories to be healthy. But regardless of how meticulously you follow those guidelines you still end up hungry, binging, deficient and/or craving all the foods you are trying to get out of your life. So it’s time to stop thinking of cravings as a problem, and start thinking of them as the path to balance. So, why do you have them? Here are the top 3 reasons why you have cravings!
1. Your Body’s Talking
When your blood sugar drops or your body is in need of specific nutrients, cravings can show up. Some are stronger than others as your nutritional needs can change from day to day, given your physical exertion, hormones, stress levels (which can be informed by everything from your thoughts to hydration to sleep to relationships to a night of drinking), etc.
At their root, cravings are a form of communication your body uses to tell you what it needs. Think of it as another form of hunger. They aren’t very specific, but they do tell you what to eat. They don’t always tell you to eat junk food either. For instance, if you are thirsty you may want to eat more soups, salad, raw produce, and carbohydrates (which help you to retain water…carboHYDRATE…), or foods that help balance hydration, like salty or potassium-rich foods.
2. You didn’t eat or eat enough (of something)
Ever drank your morning coffee or eaten breakfast, gone about your day, then gravitated to the kitchen and wondered why you feel so compelled to eat your ENTIRE pantry only to realize it’s 3pm and you haven’t eaten since 8? That desire to go full hungry hippo on your pantry wasn’t a stomach rumbling; it was a craving telling you to eat LITERALLY ANYTHING because you LITERALLY haven’t.
If you are STARVING going into your next meal or can’t stop thinking about carby and sugary foods,* think about what you have eaten today and yesterday. This sounds simple enough but mealtime is overlooked more often than you might think. Undereating can set you up to approach eating with urgency and FOMO, as your body doesn’t know when it will eat next/or if it will eat enough.
Your stomach isn’t the only part of you that asks for food, and those hunger pangs don’t stick around to make sure you eat sufficiently. At some point other body parts kick in to raise your blood sugar and attempt to keep your energy stable. But your hot bod may also be looking for other nutrients that you are not aware of and/or you need more of.
*Carbohydrates are quick to assimilate and quick to burn through. Like kindling for starting a fire. So when your body needs energy, it knows it can quickly get it from there, hence the craving for them! However, the body also knows how to burn fat for fuel, and has the capacity to switch between the two types. Cravings can also happen when the body is receiving most of its energy through carbohydrates and isn’t as practiced at burning fat for energy.
3. You aren’t paying attention
Ever have a ghost snack 👻? You know, the bag of chips or gummy snacks you brought with you to eat at your desk or in front of the TV, and at some point, you look down and realize THERE’S NOTHING THERE??? You don’t remember eating anything, but you don’t know where else it could have gone…? That’s a ghost snack.
Digestion starts in your brain and is stimulated by seeing and smelling and tasting your food. Like, your body literally gets excited and starts revving up in anticipation. But what happens when you don’t see or taste or even REMEMBER eating? Your digestion won’t run as efficiently, but more than that you didn’t ENJOY it, won’t feel SATISFIED, and may want to eat more, or again without your cravings or hunger directing you towards nourishment.
Keep it simple.
Okay so, your macros could be out of balance for you, or your body may be hunting down a specific nutrient, and yeah figuring all that out sounds absolutely annoying af. But reframing cravings overall as communication, prioritizing eating, and connecting to and enjoying it will help to bring you closer to understanding and addressing your cravings so you can eat happily!