Where Do Cravings Come From?
Many people view cravings as a sign of weakness, something to be conquered; but are they?
I used to think the same thing. Then I attended Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) and discovered a whole new way of looking at my feelings. Now, I believe that the body is an amazingly complicated super computer that has a good reason for everything it does—not something inherently flawed that needs to be fixed.
Have you ever stopped to consider that your food cravings might be your body’s way of trying to communicate with you? That they are important messages meant to assist you in maintaining balance? That your body is trying to tell you to be “just right” it needs more or less of something?
Before you can “fix” a craving, you need to understand what’s causing it. So, the next time you experience a craving, instead of getting mad, try getting curious about what your body wants and why. It takes the pressure off and can be fun.
What you discover may surprise you!
10 Causes of Cravings
- Brain chemistry.
Eating certain foods, especially those high in sugar, salt and fat, can trigger release of the feel good chemical — dopamine. This can then set up a situation where when your brain sees, smells or thinks about certain foods, it says “gimme some of that!” In our modern world where food is everywhere this desire can get triggered way too often.
- Lack of water.
Dehydration can manifest as a mild hunger, so the first thing to do when you get a craving is drink a full glass of water. Excess water can also cause cravings, so be sure that your water intake is well balanced.
When you are in a stressful state or experiencing mood lows your body may have become conditioned to seek out sugar in order to bring your mood up or relieve you of stressful feelings through the release of those magical feel good chemicals like dopamine.
- Low energy/low blood sugar.
Your body will crave sugar when it needs energy. Dips in blood sugar and hypoglycemia can cause both cravings and strong mood swings.
When women experience menstruation, pregnancy or menopause, fluctuating testosterone and estrogen levels may cause unique cravings. These can include carbohydrate cravings from low serotonin levels common in women with premenstrual syndrome.
- Past memories.
We sometimes get cravings for foods that we have eaten recently, foods eaten by our ancestors and foods from our childhood. For example, my grandmother recently died and as I think about her I’ve been craving the foods I used to share with her – tea, peanut brittle, homemade bread with molasses. Cravings for foods like turkey, eggnog or sweets, can also be associated with the holiday memories.
- Changing seasons.
Often the body craves seasonal foods. In the spring, you may crave detoxifying foods like leafy greens or citrus foods. In the summer, you may want cooling foods like fruit, raw vegetables or salads and ice cream, and in the fall grounding foods like root vegetables, onions and nuts. During winter, it’s natural to crave hot and heat-producing foods like meat, oil and fat.
- An unfulfilled life.
Being dissatisfied with your relationship or having the wrong exercise routine (too much, too little or the wrong type), being bored, stressed, uninspired by your job or lacking a spiritual practice can all cause cravings and emotional eating. I have come to realize to look deeper when my cravings for ice cream and chocolate begin to overtake me, since they’re my foods of choice when everything else seems to be going wrong.
- Yin/yang imbalance.
Chinese medicine theory suggests that certain foods have expansive or yin qualities, while other foods have more contractive or yang qualities. Eating foods that are either extremely yin or extremely yang causes cravings of the opposite foods in order to maintain balance. Have you ever craved something sweet after eating too much salt? That’s yin-yang in action.
- Lack of nutrients.
If the body has inadequate nutrients, it can produce odd cravings. For example, inadequate mineral levels can produce salt cravings, and overall inadequate nutrition can cause cravings for non-nutritious forms of energy, like caffeine.
Here are a few more helpful articles about weight loss and cravings that may interest you:
Lighter Chocolate Recipes for Weight Watchers
Hershey’s Low Fat Chocolate Cake (Simple-Nourished-Living)
Double Chocolate Cheesecake Dip (HungryGirl)
Chocolate Peanut Butter Fruit Dip (Simple-Nourished-Living)
Dark Chocolate Nut Clusters with Sea Salt (SkinnyTaste)
WW Individual Chocolate Souffles (Simple-Nourished-Living)
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