Why cravings happen and how you can stop them

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Are you obsessing over your favorite ice cream? Food cravings can be really frustrating if you’re struggling to lose or maintain a healthy weight. You might be wondering why cravings happen.

We’ve got that covered, but we also have some smart ways you can stop them. After all, food doesn’t have to control us. Sure, we need to eat in order to survive and thrive and even if we occasionally crave a certain food, it doesn’t need to become a habit.

Why cravings happen

Interestingly, cravings can be caused by mental cues. Perhaps a certain food reminds you of childhood, or you feel the smell of fresh bread coming out of that bakery store you’re passing by.

A common myth is that cravings are caused by nutritional deficiencies and our bodies are “smart” like that. Scientific research has shown that even if you have a healthy and balanced diet, you can still have cravings.

It’s not about your mood either. Many people believe that  some emotions can trigger cravings, especially sadness. Apparently, most cravings are linked to happiness and similar positive feelings, and the number significantly drops when associated with feelings of boredom, loneliness, and sadness.

Research on the topic also shows that the type of foods craved might also be related to your gender. Men tend to crave comfort foods like pizza, soup, and pasta, while women usually crave quick and easy snacks such as ice cream, chocolate, and cookies.

It’s also possible to turn a craving into a habit. If you’re eating a bag of peanuts every day when you get back home from work,  you can end up craving it as soon as you enter the house.

But the root of all problems is likely our desire for satisfaction. And since eating the foods we love is a dependable but also easy to achieve satisfaction, it’s no wonder we end up craving them. Maybe you can’t buy that Porche you’ve been dreaming of since your teenage years but you can definitely get that bag of M&M’s.

How to stop your cravings

why cravings happen

OK, so now we have an idea of why cravings happen, but can they be stopped? Probably not 100%, but they can definitely be kept under control.

Say you love candy. You probably shouldn’t ditch candy for good – that could lead to frustration and make you prone to eating even more of the stuff. The better approach is to eat your favorite foods occasionally and in a controlled manner.

Also, it’s not a good idea to have those foods you crave most always on hand. That stocked up fridge and/or pantry can reinforce your cravings. If you have ice cream at home because you crave it, you will crave it because you have it at home. If you need to go out in order to eat some, you’re probably going to think twice before doing so and it certainly won’t happen as often. And if you do go out for ice cream, have just a scoop. It’s OK to indulge but just every now and then so it doesn’t turn into a habit.

An even worse approach is to keep the foods you love in a visible spot. Don’t remind yourself of your cravings. Just don’t. At least hide those foods at the back of the fridge or cupboard.

Moreover, you can use an even smarter approach. For any craving there’s a healthier option you can replace it with that will be just as satisfying. After all, a handful of nuts is definitely healthier than a bar of Snickers.

I was speaking about satisfaction earlier. We’ll always search for the easiest ways to satisfy ourselves. It’s just human nature. The solution (which is not easy but very effective on long term) is to find satisfactions that are not food related. Find a type of physical activity you love and do it at least a few times a week. Return to a hobby you quit years ago. These are just a few ideas but you get the point. Having non-food related satisfactions in our lives can definitely help with cravings.

Last but not least, make sure you’re getting enough rest and a decent amount of exercise throughout the week. A sedentary lifestyle and insufficient sleep can mess our bodies in more than one way, and can certainly become triggers for food cravings.

What do you do to curb your cravings? Let us know in the comments section. I’m sure all of us could use more tips on how to effectively stop our cravings!