Understanding Food Cravings


Hunger vs. cravings. Two very different things that often end with the same outcome – overeating.

The good news is once you understand the difference and what your cravings mean you can decide for yourself how to handle them.

You know what they say, beat ’em or join ’em.

The Difference

Hunger is a biological need for food to provide the body with the energy it needs to sustain functionality.

Cravings are derived from emotional needs or desired governed by the brain for certain foods, usually high in fat, calories, and sugar that when consumed induce feelings of pleasure and delight. Studies have proven that cravings are typically linked to sensory memories, hence emotional need.

In fact, some foods (sugary foods, especially) stimulate the same bodily responses as drugs like cocaine. Candy is usually cheaper though…JUST KIDDING, JUST DON’T DO DRUGS, YOU GUYS. OKAY?

Here’s something that’ll blow your fucking mind – cravings are something we develop in the womb. We are hardwired to have a taste for sweets, a distaste for bitter and we acquire a taste for fat as we grow later in life. The flavors we ingest as a fetus in the womb stay with us into infancy, and many studies show, well beyond.

Quick Recap

When you’re hungry, your body is looking for something it needs to survive. When you’re craving something, your body is looking for comfort.

Understanding Cravings

We all crave different things at different times, and each body is very different. The below is a generalization of what some common cravings may signalize. Hint – your body is trying to tell you something, and it’s not to save room for dessert!

What you want: Something Chocolatey
What you need: Magnesium, B-vitamins or essential fatty acids.
What to consume instead: Avocados, dark/leafy veggies, cashews, or my personal preference, whole fruits. I like berries or apples and will add almond or peanut butter to not only help satiate, but to also manage your blood sugar. Of course, if you’re looking to indulge, you can always stick to dark chocolate as a “healthier” alternative.

Our bodies metabolize chocolate as a mood-boosting hormone (duh) and therefore craving chocolate can be related to an emotional need, what you may be craving may not even be food. Call a friend, hug your pet or loved one, or partake in any activity that makes you feel good. 

What you want: Carbs
What you need: Fiber, chromium or magnesium rich foods
What to consume instead: Meat, potatoes, whole-grainsfruits, and vegetables such as bananas, apples, apricots, spinach, avocado, broccoli, celery, swiss chard, or carrots.

What you want: Something Sweet and Sugary, or salty
What you need: WATER, you’re dehydrated, bish!
What to consume instead: Filtered water infused with lemon, mint leaves, or fruits

What you want: Something Fried or Cheesy
What you need: Essential fatty acids
What to consume instead: Fish, nut butter, avocados or greek yogurt

What to do About Them

When people follow overly restrictive diets or completely cut out groups of foods, cravings can become more intense and can lead to a vicious cycle of indulging, overeating and guilt. A diet that allows small amounts of foods you enjoy — even high-fat, high-calorie foods — will be easier to maintain since you aren’t eliminating entire groups of foods from your life.

To manage cravings, check it out:

  • Delay and then decide:  Don’t deprive. Delay your desired item and determine if you ABSOLUTELY want it after thinking about it. If I’m craving a donut during the week, I tell myself, “If you still want this donut on Saturday morning, babe, you have it.” Sometimes a craving can feel overwhelming at the moment but is ultimately shortlived.
  • Choose alternatives for your cravings: Reference the above for alternatives. If you’re hankering for potato chips, find something else that’s crunchy to tide you over. Kale chips, celery, roasted sweet potatoes, or pretzels. Get creative!
  • Buy single servings of foods you crave: An individual serving is much safer than a bag of something you can go HAM consuming.
  • Eat your Meals: Cravings hit when hunger becomes unbearable. If you’re eating your regularly scheduled meals, you’ll fight hunger before it sets in. The same goes for hydration. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Stay ahead of the game.

IMO, any diet that is strict enough to eliminate entire groups of food is NOT one worth following. Read more about how you can find balance in your diet here.


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  1. Great article! It’s so interesting that our cravings develop so early. I’m going to work on delaying and then deciding!