Food cravings are something that most of us experience at some point in our lives. They are a normal part of human biology but can become a problem if they lead to overeating or eating unhealthy foods. In this article, we will explore the causes of food cravings, sugar cravings, how to deal with them, and how to make healthier food choices.
First, it is important to understand the causes of food cravings. One of the most common causes is physical hunger. When we are hungry, our bodies release hormones that signal the brain to crave specific types of food, such as those high in sugar or fat. Stress, emotional eating, and boredom can also trigger food cravings. Additionally, certain foods can trigger more intense and frequent cravings, such as those high in sugar, fat, or salt, or those that are associated with happy memories or celebrations.
When it comes to dealing with food cravings, the key is to understand why you are craving a particular food. Are you truly physically hungry or is the craving driven by emotions or stress? If you are physically hungry, it is important to eat a healthy meal or snack to satisfy your hunger and prevent overeating later. If the craving is driven by emotions or stress, it may be helpful to find alternative ways to deal with these feelings, such as talking to a friend, going for a walk, or practicing mindfulness.
Sugar cravings can be particularly intense, but they are not a lack of willpower. Rather, these sugar cravings are your body’s way of trying to tell you something. There are many reasons you may especially crave sugar, some of them may include:
You’re eating too much artificial sugar.
While your taste buds and waistline may appreciate the calorie-free option of artificially sweetened beverages or foods, your brain is conflicted. Your brain still receives the signal that sugar is hitting the bloodstream – but when your body figures out that it’s being tricked and it’s a sugar-free alternative instead, your brain and body are far more likely to crave real sugar.
You’re not eating enough nutrient-dense foods.
Aim to eat as many real foods as possible, while avoiding processed foods. Processed foods can negatively impact gut bacteria and create sugar cravings. Instead of reaching for high-calorie, high-fat, or high-sugar foods, try to choose foods that are high in protein, fiber, or healthy fats. These foods will help to keep you full and satisfied for longer and can help to reduce cravings. Some examples of healthier food choices include:
- Lean proteins: Lean proteins such as chicken, fish, or beans can help to keep you full and satisfied for longer.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables: These are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and can help to satisfy cravings for sweet or crunchy foods.
- Whole grains: Whole grains are high in fiber and can help to keep you full and satisfied for longer.
- Healthy fats: Healthy fats such as avocado, nuts, and seeds can help to reduce cravings for high-fat foods.
You’re not getting enough sleep.
Lack of sleep affects hormones in our body that regulate hunger. Two of these hormones are ghrelin and leptin. Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating – but when you’re sleep deprived you have less leptin. Less leptin = more hunger, which tends to make sugar the top choice for a quick and easy pick-me-up.
When you’re in that fight-or-flight mode, our bodies intuitively want a fuel that is easy to consume and quick to digest (aka sugar) to keep up with the demands we are placing on our bodies.
You may (knowingly or unknowingly) be an emotional eater.
Sugar is super effective at activating the parasympathetic nervous system – also known as the rest-and-digest – to take you OUT of the fight or flight mode. But the good news: there are many other coping strategies to activate the rest-and-digest state, without self-sabotaging your weight loss progress. Walking, breathing exercises, mindfulness/meditation, and talking with friends can be excellent alternatives to sugar.
In conclusion, food cravings are a normal part of human biology, but they can become a problem if they lead to overeating or eating unhealthy foods. Start to see your cravings in a different light. Rather than a source of harm to your progress, use cravings as a warning to yourself to slow down, get some rest, find healthy ways to destress, and eat whole nutrient-dense foods.
If you are struggling with diets and if you are finding it difficult to deal with cravings, please reach out to us at The Silhouette Clinic as our team is ready to help.