Poor eating habits have a way of catching up with us. Oftentimes these habits stem from a variety of food cravings. Read more about some type of food cravings and help in changing these habits for the better.
What are your cravings telling you?
Whether you call it emotional eating, satisfying cravings or your food addiction, poor eating habits have a way of catching up with us. It may affect not just our weight, but it can also have an effect on our mood and behavior. Sometimes the cravings can be driven by the hidden sugars (which are added in some of the oddest places). I was picking up some lemon pepper spice from the store, but put it back on the shelf when I realized the first ingredient was sugar! As I began to read the label on many of the blended spices, the majority had sugar in the mix (and most often it was the first ingredient!). Note to self: read every label!
Some of these hidden sugars can set us up for unexpected cravings. I tend to group cravings into six different types: emotional, nutritional, mental, chemical, physical, and microbial. Today, I am going to focus on just two of these: the emotional and the nutritional.
Most people are familiar with emotional cravings. We are emotional beings, and it can be very difficult to separate our emotions from food. Food can offer comfort when there is an emotional high or low, but it can also offer guilt for overindulgence. Common food cravings may range from chocolate to salty foods to alcohol to starchy foods.
One way to controlling emotional eating is to think of the acronym “HALT” if you find yourself emotionally eating. (H = happy; A = angry; L = lonely; T = tired) If you find you are eating for any of these reasons, putting yourself into a different state can help you to control the eating.
What do I mean by a “different state?” This means changing how you feel by putting yourself into motion. Here is an example: if you tend to find yourself in the freezer grabbing ice cream at 8 p.m., stop, ask yourself “halt” (“Am I eating because I am happy, angry, lonely or tired?”), and then do 25 jumping jacks or 10 push-ups. What you will find is that by putting yourself into motion, you change how you are feeling, and can then walk away from the freezer empty handed.
This may sound simple, but it really works! I have used this technique to get people to break the late night eating habits, to start fasting overnight, and to reach their weight loss or health goals. One small change can set a cascade, put you on a new path, and help you to reach your health goals.
Nutritional cravings are a little different than emotional cravings. There has been a lot written about food cravings being related to nutritional deficiencies, but when you look at the research, there is little support for this. That being said, one nutritional craving shown to be real is pica, which may be seen in children or during pregnancy and is associated with low iron levels and/or zinc levels. (Pica is an eating disorder where the individual consumes non-nutritive foods such as paper, clay, or dirt.)
It is hard to say whether nutritional cravings are real or more of an emotional type of eating. Sometimes you are not aware, because I believe the body has this innate ability to seek out what it needs. There are some commonly discussed nutritional cravings, and here are just a few:
|If you are craving:||Possible nutrient that is lacking:|
|Dirt, clay, paste||Iron and/or zinc|
|Protein||Iron, amino acids|
|Fat||Fats or fat soluble vitamins including A, D,E, or K|
No matter what type of food craving you may be having, stop and evaluate the craving. Does the craving fall into an emotional or nutritional type? Ask yourself, “Am I eating because I am happy, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT)?” Lastly, get your body into motion and use this energy to change your mental state to help control cravings. By using these easy tools, you can understand and begin to control your cravings to reach your health care goals.
Davis C. et al. Food cravings, appetite, and snack-food consumption in response to a psycholmoteor stimulant drug: the moderating effect of food addiction. Frontiers in Psychology. 2014;5:1-8.
Tiggemann M. Kemps E. The phenomenology of food cravings: the role of mental imagery. Appetite. 2005;45(3):305-313.
Hardcastle S. Thogersen C. Chatzisarantis N. Food choices and nutrition: a social psychological perspective. Nutrients. 2015: