Understanding Food Cravings
Tired after a long day at work? Feeling drained after training? Ready to turn on the TV and grab those fried chicken wings and chocolate cake you’ve been craving all day? We know the feeling so well, don’t we?
But what makes us crave these foods in the first place? Why do we lean towards rather unbalanced options, high in calories and low in nutritional values, even more in times when our bodies need the most nutrition they can get to recover and function properly again?
And what even is a craving to begin with? What parts of our brains are responsible for giving us this feeling?
Most importantly, what are our bodies really trying to signal to us?
So many questions! Right?
Thankfully, the answers are so simple and bring so much insight into the state of our health! So let’s see what we can learn!
What Are Food Cravings?
First of all, a food craving is a strong feeling of wanting a particular food. This feeling can be seemingly uncontrollable, and a person may even believe that they cannot satisfy their hunger without that specific food. It is important to note, however, that from a biological perspective, cravings differ from hunger.
Where Does This Sensation Come From?
A craving is a rather complex phenomenon and it involves multiple areas of the brain, beyond just the appetite centres. These areas comprise the brain’s reward centre.
The brain regions responsible for memory, reward, and pleasure are involved in shaping food cravings. Likewise, some hormonal imbalance, as these related to serotonin and leptin, also play a role. Since cravings are also linked to our memories, some scientists refer to food cravings as “mind hunger”. But while hunger is a signal necessary to our survival, cravings are not. Contrastingly, people tend to crave foods high in sugar and / or fat, to those that our bodies are truly in need of.
Part of the reason is that the former, unhealthier options, tend to release chemicals in the brain and the effects set in much faster. These chemicals make us feel immediately, yet only temporary satisfied.
For example, sugar converts into energy fastest, giving us a “sugar rush”, which is followed by a sudden and drastic decrease in energy levels, leaving us to crave even more, while steadily becoming dependent on it. Sugar is highly addictive and a considerable proportion of the population is dealing with this matter worldwide.
Overall, these short-lived experiences do not contribute to nurturing our bodies, hence our energy and capacity to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle, make further progress, and sustainable decisions decrease gradually, increasing the risk of being caught into a unhealthy loop and developing harmful eating habits.
Dealing with Cravings
There are a variety of ways to reduce unwanted food cravings. Let’s try the following techniques:
- Understand each craving – Being aware of the real needs of our bodies;
- Reduce stress levels – Stress can result in emotional and impulsive eating;
- Drink plenty of water – Hunger and thirst produce very similar sensations;
- Get enough sleep – It regulates hormones, enhances self-control, and the capacity to make rational, beneficial decisions;
- Eat enough protein – A balanced diet regulates appetite and increases body’s healing pace;
- Change the scenery – Avoid areas or situations which trigger the unhealthy habits, opting for a beneficial substitute;
- Avoid hunger – Delayed eating can trick our minds to believe we need foods much more high in calories than our bodies really do.
These are the most popular suggestions we’ve gathered. What is your unique way of handling your cravings? And how often do you indulge? Let us know in the comments section below. We’re looking forward to your answers!
Danette May (n.d.) 5 Food Cravings: WHY You Have Them [online] available from https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/570620215268307094/
Medical News Today (2020) What causes food cravings? [online] available from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318441
Voa News (2018) Food Cravings: They’re All in Your Brain [online] available from https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/learningenglish.voanews.com/amp/health-lifestyle-food-cravings/4184716.html