Why do you want that snack so badly?
By Mercedes Deutscher, Staff Writer
Do you ever have the overwhelming desire to get a DQ Blizzard? Would you search far and wide for a bag of Cheetos? If yes, then you’re not alone. Almost everyone will experience food cravings throughout their life; in fact, according to a survey conducted by Nestlé in 2006, 98 per cent of Canadians experience some sort of food craving. Only eight per cent of Canadians manage to keep their cravings under control, while the rest give in to their cravings sometimes or always.
Yet, why? Food cravings are more than a lust for something tasty. They’re often a signal from your body that it requires some sort of vitamin or mineral. They can also be a signal from your brain when you are feeling emotionally imbalanced. They can even be a result of recent lifestyle habits.
A lot of people reach for snacks in times of high stress as a comforter. Nestlé identified some of the main triggers that cause food cravings, with the top cause being anxiety or stress. Other triggers included boredom, seeing advertisements, sensory detection, and feeling alone or happy. In an article for Canadian Living, Dee Van Dyk explains that serotonin levels fall in times of stress, and that eating a sweet or a starchy food can boost those serotonin levels back to their original point. A hormone imbalance may also be responsible for food cravings. Dyk explains that this may happen during pregnancy, menstruation, menopause, times of fluctuating estrogen for women, and times of fluctuating testosterone for men. From a psychological perspective, Dyk elaborates that people may give in to certain food cravings because said food is associated with happy memories, especially those from childhood.
Those who are on some sort of diet may experience strong food cravings, especially if they have decided to deprive themselves of junk food completely. By depriving themselves of the food they desire, dieters may set themselves up for failure and end up binge eating. It’s a good idea to allow oneself a moment to indulge in small portions every so often, just to get the craving out of the system.
Aside from the mind, cravings may also originate in the body. Sometimes a craving can be a signal that your body is lacking a certain vitamin or mineral. It is important to recognize a connection between what you crave and what you need. Often a craving comes as a result of being dehydrated, according to Margo Gladys, a New York-based health and body coach. When feeling a craving, Gladys suggests drinking a glass of water first. That glass of water could fix a craving without indulging in a high-calorie snack to do so.
In other cases, a craving may be fixed with a healthier alternative that has the vitamins or minerals that the body needs. When one craves chocolate, their body probably needs magnesium. Since it can be difficult to be satisfied with anything but chocolate, Bembu.com suggests eating dark chocolate instead of high-sugar milk chocolate.
If bread is what the body desires, it is lacking amino acids. Luckily, there are plenty of healthy and high-protein alternatives like fish, eggs, or quinoa. Green tea makes a great alternative to coffee, as it has caffeine yet increases your metabolism.
If you have a killer sweet tooth, your body most likely needs some extra glucose in order to keep your blood sugar at a good level. However, glucose can be found naturally in fruit, so try trading that apple fritter for an apple instead. Perhaps you feel like eating something deep fried—this is a signal that your body needs fat. While people may shy away from fats, it’s still important to get some. Try substituting for healthier fats, like nuts. Is that bag of chips appealing to you? You need to get some sodium. Since most of the salt in chips is highly processed, try to opt for chips with sea salt.
Try to make some good habits. If you’re craving a chocolate bar, do you need to eat the whole thing yourself, or could you share it with a friend? If you really want a Big Mac, do you need the fries that come with it? If you’re going to indulge in your craving, maybe take a walk in order to get it. It will either deter you from going to get it, or give you some exercise in the process. If you’re bored, try finding another activity to do and distract yourself from your craving.
It’s a good idea to be aware of your eating habits. Question why you are craving food: are you actually hungry, or are you just bored? Cravings are perfectly natural but can be unhealthy if they’re overdone, so be aware of your mind, body, and cravings in order to keep them under control.