We’ve all had moments where we’ve been struck by a visceral need to eat chocolate, ice cream or a bag of potato chips. In those moments, our food cravings are so strong that it feels like we can’t focus on anything else until we appease our desires.
But are we craving something we need or do we simply just want a treat? By understanding how food cravings come about and what our bodies are trying to tell us through them, we can take control of the desires.
Food cravings are triggered by environmental factors, not any sort of nutritional need. If we’re accustomed to eating at a certain time, we’ll crave food at that time every day, whether or not we’re actually hungry. Also, smells can trigger cravings. When we inhale the sweet aroma of ice cream near a store or cinnamon rolls in the mall, we crave those foods because we’re now thinking about them. Food cravings can also be triggered by exhaustion. When we’re tired, we’re more likely to crave foods high in sugar, fat and salt because we think they’ll make us feel better.
How do we combat cravings? You can disarm them by delaying action and focusing on another activity. If you wait 10 to 15 minutes before satisfying the craving, you may find it passes. You can also use sugarless gum to retrain your brain. When you find yourself with cravings, pop a piece of gum in your mouth. Over time, you’ll retrain your brain to form a new habit.
Finally, understand how cravings affect you. When you’re craving potato chips or chocolate, do you eat the whole bag or a small helping in moderation? It’s OK to give in to cravings once in a while, so long as you don’t overdo it.