Whether it's sweet or salty, cheesy or spicy we've all experienced food cravings. What exactly is a food craving? According to a study published by Weingarten and Elston, a food craving is, "an intense desire to consume a particular food or food type that is difficult to resist." Sometimes a food craving is so intense that it can actually feel impossible, not just difficult, to resist. When these moments hit, it can be frustrating- particularly if you're trying to eat healthier and/or lose weight.
Giving in to food cravings can come with its own onslaught of negative feelings as well, like failure, disappointment, sadness, loss of control, etc. Although it's important to self-reflect on your feelings after giving in to a food craving, becoming more mindful in the moment when the craving strikes can be even more important.
Many times, food cravings are a unique way your body and mind are trying to tell you that something is amidst internally. Taking a few moments to step back and decode your cravings can lead to a deeper connection with what you may be feeling and/or experiencing in your life. Eventually, this more mindful approach to your cravings can lead you to make healthier choices in the future when the next craving comes along.
To help you decode your cravings, first think about your emotional state when one comes along. Many times, cravings are linked to lower levels of serotonin, the "feel-good hormone". Cravings for chocolate, carbohydrates, and even cheese can all point to feelings of discontentment, sadness, or even depression. However, cravings are not always linked to your emotional state. For example, cravings for salt can mean you're dehydrated. Since sodium is an electrolyte, your body might be telling you that you're out of balance from lack of fluids and need to be replenished.
Another popular craving not always linked to your emotional state (but certainly can be) is sugar. Often, sugar cravings hit when you're feeling sluggish, hungry, or stressed and can simply be a sign that your body is in need of an energy boost.
After you have attempted to narrow down the root cause of your craving, instead of giving into it immediately, try other remedies. For a mood-boost, try exercise, chatting with a good friend, or meditating. If you're dehydrated, reach for water or even an all-natural electrolyte booster like coconut water (steer clear of other beverages like sodas, fruit juices, and sports drinks).
If your energy tank is running on fumes, try resting your eyes for a few moments, exercise (it really does cure just about everything), or even a healthy dose of caffeine (like a small cup of coffee) to give you a little pep.
Keep in mind that not all cravings mean something else is going on in your body or mind. Sometimes, you might just want a piece of cake because you're at a birthday party- and that's okay. Becoming more mindful of your cravings, their root causes, and other ways to remedy them can help you feel empowered and more consistent with your health choices when you're faced with a difficult food temptation.