Cravings : When the Mind is Hungry
The title of this article does not refer to craving intellectual pursuits, but to that intense desire to keep eating a specific food after our hunger pangs have been satisfied.
There’s a real distinction – cravings are not the same as hunger:
- Hunger is regulated by the body, while cravings are dictated by the mind.
- Hunger is usually a general need for food while cravings can be for very specific foods
- Hunger is about surviving physically. Cravings are often about surviving emotionally
Seen in this light, cravings are not the actual problem,
they are merely symptoms of underlying issues.
Some of these could be:
This is when we link certain foods with certain activities. For example, you could be perfectly happy reading a book for hours on end but as soon as you turn on the television your mind goes to the kitchen. Or as soon as you come home from work you reach for a glass of wine. As soon as you have the kids in bed you feel the need for cake. Etc.
Write this report, or get a snack?
Do the laundry? Hmmm I feel hungry, I’ll just have a bag of chips first.
This is a popular time for cravings to surface. God forbid we have to sit with ourselves for a few minutes.
Emotional States – Comfort/Distraction
Food often gives us comfort, and when we experience intense negative feelings, we can reach for food to feel soothed. This is especially true if, as children, we were given food to calm and quiet us by well meaning caregivers.
Loneliness, Anger, Sadness, Guilt, Depression, etc., these are all states that can feel very uncomfortable. Not many of us have been taught to sit with discomfort and see ourselves through, so food becomes an instant comforter. As well as a distraction from the discomfort.
Certain foods, like sugar, can trigger an increase in our endorphin levels, serving to boost our moods and make us feel happier. So though sugary foods may result in instant happiness, it is short lived, and fails to address the real cause of the negative feeling that we are experiencing.
Then the guilt/criticism etc. that we may feel as a result of having eaten the desired food ends up making us feel worse in the long run.
The reasons why we intensely crave certain foods at certain times are different for everyone.
What’s your reason? Here’s one way to find out:
The next time your mind prompts you to reach for the food you crave, do this : just pause. Go ahead and eat it, but just pause for a few moments before you reach for it.
In that pause, ask yourself what you’re feeling. Become aware of the reason behind the craving in that particular moment.
You may be surprised to discover every time you stop to do this that the reasons are not always the same! One time it may be sheer boredom, another time may be anxiety, and the next time you may be trying to avoid feeling sad.
See for yourself. What’s under your craving?
That’s the issue that needs addressing, should you wish to do so.
If cravings come upon us in times of stress, when we are not feeling our best, when we are tired, how on earth are we going to summon reserves of willpower to stave off eating the very foods we think are going to bring us comfort in those times?
How sustainable is it?
How guilty/bad/ashamed/weak/etc. do we feel if we “give in”?
A study conducted by Hertfordshire University (2007) found that women who tried to stop thinking about eating chocolate ended up eating 50% more than those who actually talked about their cravings*
Trying to cut out all thoughts of your favourite, fattening food may actually make you eat more!
* Source : BBC News Share this on