Understanding Food Cravings And How To Manage Them

If you have a desire for a specific food or type of food and nothing else will do, you have cravings. While some cravings are purely physical. If you’re craving watermelon or a juicy fruit, you might need hydration. Some people also have healthy cravings that are the body telling you that you need certain nutrients. Most cravings, however, are strictly emotional. Cravings are part of the reward system that is located in several areas of the brain. It’s more than just being hungry. The part of the brain that tells you it’s hungry or thirsty is located in the hypothalamus at the base of the brain, while the reward system is throughout the center of the brain. If you eat something sweet, it makes you feel good because it triggered the reward system.

People are built to seek pleasure and avoid pain.

Our rudimentary system is all about the carrot and the stick. If a food tastes bad or makes you sick, you’ll avoid it. If it makes you feel good or you associate it with something that made you feel good, you associate that food with bringing pleasure. Maybe your family celebrated happy events by getting ice cream cones. Ice cream cones become a symbol of happiness. It’s easy to see how sweet treats are often pleasure-givers since they’re associated with celebrations. They also trigger the same neural receptors as dopamine, the feel-good hormone.

Your hormones can be the cause of the cravings.

Hormonal changes can cause some cravings. You often hear of pregnant women having unusual cravings associated with hormones. Young children can also have pica—pica is the desire to consume non-food items. It can include dirt, coins, cigarette butts, and other odd objects. One more common form of pica is eating ice. Pregnant women and women with a heavy menstrual cycle may have it. It can be from hormonal fluctuations or iron deficiency.

Is your craving selective or nonselective?

Selective cravings tend to be emotional or nutrient directed. Nonselective cravings for food are more common. They’re the signs of hunger and any food will do. There are cravings between the two. Sometimes, dehydration can trick your brain into thinking you’re hungry, but you’ll be more likely to desire something juicy, like fresh fruit, making it a bit more specific.

  • You can manage food cravings in several ways. If you aren’t sure if you’re hungry or thirsty, drink a glass of water. If you desire comfort food, get up and move. Walking helps lift your spirits as much as comfort food.
  • Manage food cravings by getting more sleep. When you lack sleep, your body creates more ghrelin—the hunger hormone—and less leptin—the one that makes you feel full and satisfied. More sleep helps you control cravings.
  • Sometimes chewing gum or drinking water helps. If you regularly have an urge for sweets between meals, have fresh fruit ready as a snack.
  • If you’re craving sweets, maybe you have a problem with your microbiome. Consume probiotic food like yogurt or prebiotic food to feed healthy microbes, such as leafy greens, apples, bananas, cocoa, and bran.

For more information, contact us today at Next Level Fitness

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