Let’s talk about food cravings. A powerful desire comes over you and you can’t take your mind off of a certain food. Maybe it’s a cheeseburger, fries, chocolate cake or chips. Regardless of what it is, we’ve all experienced food cravings at some point. However, individuals who experience overeating or emotional eating may battle intense food cravings on a daily basis. This can be extremely overwhelming and hard to manage. And typically, cravings are usually for foods high in fat, sugar, salt or carbs. As a result, if we constantly eat to satisfy our food cravings, it may lead to weight gain, poor digestion and other health issues.
There are several contributing factors that may trigger cravings. The onset of food cravings may be caused by hunger, food deprivation (extreme dieting), emotional upset, or even boredom. While some people attempt to control their cravings through will-power or distraction alone, finding the source of your cravings can help to manage them in a healthier way!
To deal with food cravings, ask yourself these 3 Questions:
1. Am I Eating the Right Foods?
Cravings, especially for sweets and sugar, are often the result of an imbalanced diet. If you aren’t getting enough healthy protein and healthy fats in your diet, you won’t feel satisfied and this can cause cravings. To ensure you’re eating a balanced diet, try to incorporate as much whole, unprocessed foods as possible!
Healthy protein options include fish, chicken, meat, plant-based protein shakes, yogurt, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Healthy fats include avocados, eggs, cheese, olive oil, chia seeds and flaxseeds.
2. Am I Eating Enough?
There’s a lot of noise and misinformation regarding food, nutrition and weight loss. We often think if something worked for one person, it will work for everyone – but this simply isn’t true! There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to health. So, while you may think you’re eating healthy foods, you may be eliminating too much in an attempt to lose weight quickly. This backfires as not eating enough causes intense cravings as the body attempts to find balance.
And this doesn’t just apply to your total daily food intake, but to each meal and snack as well. Do you often skip meals or wait too long to eat? Notice when you do this, you’re much more likely to experience cravings as you’ve gotten to a point of extreme hunger. Oftentimes, overeating is caused by imbalanced meals and not eating enough earlier in the day. If you notice you get cravings specifically in the evening or night-time, schedule balanced meals (and snacks) throughout the day.
3. Is there something else (not food) that I’m craving?
Are you craving food because you’re rewarding yourself or seeking comfort from a bad day? When we have this mentality and use food as a reward system, we are using food to address our emotions. Instead, figure out what you’re really craving. Looking for comfort? Chances are, you just want something to make you feel good. Instead of relying on food, maybe talk to a friend, ask a loved one for a hug, journal, or have a bath instead.
Are you trying to mask anger or sadness? While its easy to mindlessly turn to food, this doesn’t address what we’re feeling and why. When you’re experiencing intense food cravings, pause and see if you can identify what you’re feeling. Just learning to recognize your emotions is an important step towards managing emotional eating!
Food cravings may or may not be related to hunger. Act as your own personal investigator and figure out if your cravings are physical or emotional.
If you’re craving junk food, although it may seem counter-intuitive, what your body really is asking for is nutrient-dense foods. Prioritize balanced meals and snacks. If you make these changes and still experience intense cravings, its likely that you’re trying to escape from feeling uncomfortable emotions. Ask yourself what you’re really craving. It may be more love, intimacy, connection or comfort.
Satisfy these emotional cravings with self-care instead of food – a guaranteed approach to manage food cravings and emotional eating.