Where Do Cravings Come From?

Food cravings can be the destroyer of a healthy diet. If you’ve ever been dieting and found yourself with an overwhelming urge for potato chips or sweets, you’re not alone. During a diet, you could be depriving yourself of certain elements that make you crave them, but there might be other reasons for your cravings.

You shouldn’t continue to berate yourself for giving in to your cravings until you learn why you’re having them. It might be beyond your control. Plus, you should never berate yourself for being human and lacking willpower occasionally.

Where Do Cravings Come From Exactly? Reasons for Your Cravings

Reason #1 – Conditioning

popcorn conditioning

Certain activities, places, and interactions with others can trigger the conditioning to eat unhealthy foods. Movie night is an excuse for big buckets of popcorn and tubs of sugary sodas. Visiting the coffee place with friends could trigger intense cravings for coffee, but it means a muffin or snack, too.

If you’re triggered to eat certain foods based on the situation or the person you’re with, you have to find a way to break that conditioning. If it’s movie night, exchange that popcorn for something that is equally as satisfying but without all the calories. You can sneak your own snacks into the movies, which leads to you saving money, too.

Reason #2 – Nutritional Deficiencies

salty chips and soda cravings

Salty

This can be a signal that you’re missing zinc, magnesium, or calcium in your diet. If you have overwhelming cravings that have to be satisfied, it could be a symptom of other problems like Addison’s disease. You should check with your doctor to learn whether it’s a craving or a more serious problem.

Soda

A craving for soda could mean that you have a calcium deficiency. Caffeinated sodas give you a boost of energy, but the phosphoric acid leeches magnesium from your body, which causes more cravings for soda. It becomes a cycle of cravings that create more cravings.

Fries or Chips

These fatty, oily junk foods can mean that you’re low on healthy fats in your body. Instead of getting the bad, unsaturated fats in your diet, try getting them from fish, nuts, avocados and olive oil.

Reason #3 – Dehydration

Often, people believe that they’re very hungry without their stomach rumbling. If cravings hit when there’s no way you can be hungry, it could be a sign that you’re actually thirsty. Experts recommend that if you’re constantly hungry, try reaching for water first. You’ll actually fill your belly with water to quench your thirst and stop you from eating so much at meals.

Reason #4 – Emotional Eating

Many times cravings are signs of emotional eating problems. If you’re bored, sad, or angry, it could cause you to reach for your favorite ice cream or a bag of chips to drown your sorrows.

Check the areas of your life that cause this kind of emotional eating. It’s much like the eating that’s triggered by conditioning. If you find yourself reaching for ice cream at 10 pm because you’re lonely and bored, find other things to fill your time. Instead of making ice cream the substitute for a significant other in your life, find hobbies that fulfill you emotionally. Make friends who you can spend time with at night when you tend to emotionally eat. Fill that void with activities versus food.

Reason #5 – Hormonal

Women have fluctuating hormone levels that can cause cravings during their period, pregnancy and menopause. While you might have a craving for hordes of cream-filled cookies, you should always try to make better choices.

In some cases an imbalance in hormones – whether male or female – can lead to depression and a need for a boost in magnesium, serotonin, or dopamine. This is why many people turn to sweets when they’re stressed or unsteady emotionally. It might be an actual chemical imbalance that causes the cravings more than emotions like those that happen with emotional eating.

Tracking Your Cravings

While all of the reasons for cravings can be truly legitimate, you can’t give in to the cravings every time they happen. You don’t need to rely on willpower, either. There has to be a healthy balance between dieting and staying away from all the foods you crave.

It’s important to keep a food journal. Every time you turn to food or have incredible cravings, make a note in the journal. It should include the major events that happened that day, the type of craving you endured, and how you responded to it. Recording your food and moods can help you track down the reason for your cravings.

You might want to see your doctor to find out if you have deficiencies that need to be addressed. Fighting a food craving and losing can leave you feeling defeated when all you need to do is take some extra vitamins.

Jeanette Kierstead

About the Author

Jeanette Kierstead