Theres nothing like a pandemic to bring out the worst in a craving.
Stress has been at superhuman levels. Fear has washed over everyone of us and for many, that meant an increase in sugar, junk food and alcohol. Clients ask me all the time what to do with their “out of control” cravings for salty, crunchy, sugar or creamy tastes and textures. So let’s breakdown what a craving is exactly to see how you can get your cravings to calm down.
There are many reasons why you might crave a food, or alcohol, and, let’s be real, shopping, smoking, TV, gambling or exercising. Really, anything that grabs your attention and won’t let go until it is satisfied.
Cravings fall into two large categories – physical and emotional. It’s important to know the difference between these two types of cravings because it allows you to then make well thought out choices. Either way, cravings manifest as thoughts that you simply cannot get out of your head. If you are like most women you have likely said to yourself “hmm, I would love just a little something sweet (or crunchy or whatever is on your mind)”. Now pause. Where is this coming from?
Physical Craving ConsiderationsCheck out these reasons for cravings and see if any of them resonate with you:
You Are Physically Hungry
Have you skipped breakfast or trying out intermittent fasting and restricting calories in your day? You are likely hungry, your brain is definitely hungry and you might even be starving at this point. True physical hunger can look like a craving because your brain is needing fuel and it’s needing it right.now. Your brain is going to do anything it can from letting your starve. The first thing your brain is going start thinking about is a quick source of carbohydrates (your brain’s preferred fuel) and the quickest source of carbohydrates is in the form of simple sugar. I would bet money that the last time you felt starved you were probably not looking for celery sticks. You started thinking of granola bars (most are primarily sugar and can be easily eaten in three bites) or chocolate or chips.
Solution: Eat consistently through your day with a balance of breakfast, lunch and dinner. Do not ignore your 3pm hunger, eat then too! A steady flow of nutrients through your day can lessen cravings considerably.
You Are Eating Too Much Processed Foods
The fast food industry knows you very well. To get you coming back for more of what they are selling, food companies jack up their foods with ingredients like natural flavors or artificial flavors (both made in a lab), and ingredients you can’t pronounce on an ingredient label. They are all intended to hijack your taste buds. No longer is an orange sweet enough because your palate has been conditioned to the taste of white sugar.
Solution: Bring down your tastebud threshold by gravitating for something naturally sweet when craving sugar, like pineapple or mango. And lose the fear that fruit is all sugar. Fruit has minuscule amounts of sugar compared to the candy bar you just ate and is full of phytonutrients, fiber and water.
You Are Exhausted
Sleep is a fascinating topic and the new is in: the quantity and quality of your sleep count towards your energy, your health, your focus, your stress, and most important your cravings and hunger. Lack of sleep and chronically getting too little sleep has been shown to increase the hormones Ghrelin (responsible for hunger control, making you want to eat more), decreasing the hormone Leptin (the appetite suppressing hormone).
Solution: Make your sleep a top priority. Adults need at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night, sometimes more but rarely less. Set a reminder on your phone telling you to get into bed, try not to drink alcohol right before bed (total sleep killer) and turn off your phone.
Emotional Craving Considerations
You Are Emotionally Hungry
Going for food when you are “emotionally hungry” can feel complicated. You’re not all that hungry, right? You just ate dinner, you realistically cannot fit in another bite, but there you are, the thought of ice cream refusing to leave your thoughts. You might even wonder why you are always craving crunchy and salty when you sit down to watch TV at night.
Emotional hunger is a broad category but the solution is the same. You could be bored, and bored used to mean rummaging in the kitchen as a kid. You could feel anxious about the pandemic, stressed, lonely, sad. Food is a reward for a hard day, and you have so many of those lately. Your hormones might be uncovering hidden stressors, or contributing to lack of sleep.
Solution: Handling emotional hunger takes some inner work but the reward is worth it. If you have been mindlessly eating for a while, start checking in with hunger first. Ask yourself if you are physically hungry. If you are then I want you to EAT. Do not ignore physical hunger. If you have not eaten in a few hours, you feel distracted and your stomach is growling, you are likely physically hungry. Honor that hunger, do not try to push past it. See above, it will only lead to cravings that you can simply avoid.
If you are sure you are not physically hungry, then we turn to emotional hunger. Learn to get honest with yourself and identify your feelings. Figure out the history and the source. Growing up in my family, sugar was a reward. Having a hard day? Have a cookie to make it all better. And it never did. I learned to lean into other things to help me. Turning to my journal, calling a friend, going for a walk, anything to to focus your emotions before you cave to the chocolate.
If you are ready to explore your cravings and hunger and are ready for a redo on eating this spring, join me next month for The Healthy Spring Midlife Reset. Two weeks to get back on track with nutritious, delicious recipes and accountability. This is not a diet, rather a way to eat in the real world. And you will love every bite. Click HERE for all the info and to sign up. We begin April 16th!