The causes of food cravings
Food cravings are exhausting. We want to eat well and try our hardest to change. It seems like the more we try to eat well, the more we end up consumed with thoughts and stress! So the critical question is: Why do we crave food in the first place – what are the deeper causes of food cravings?
1/ Biological causes of food cravings
We are biologically wired to seek pleasure and reward. We find pleasure in intimacy and sex, as well as food. And we need to find pleasure in these things because they keep humanity and our species alive. So there is a purpose for our pleasure in food and intimacy!
Biologically, food makes us feel good
In particular, highly palatable foods are especially pleasurable for humans. These are foods containing a lot of sugar, salt, and fat – think hot chips or burgers. And obviously, food companies tend to design food around this fact. And we get addicted to seeking and receiving that pleasure and reward (the same way drug addiction works). Ultimately, we get addicted to the way food makes us feel.
Restriction causes our body to crave
Now imagine this example to understand how our biology around food operates. Imagine going on a diet. You cut out some food groups or reduce your calories too low. You skip meals and exercise more. But the one thing that keeps us alive (food), becomes scarce. So what will our brain instinctively do? It will activate survival mode. And in order to ‘keep humanity going’, you will crave food intensely. Food becomes the primal need and focus for the brain to MAKE YOU EAT AND PAY ATTENTION. Basically we are trying to fight our own biology! I don’t know about you, but I know who will win here.
2/ Psychological causes of food cravings
Second pillar to food cravings is our innate human psychology. Restriction activates our human instinct of ‘wanting what we can’t have’. Remember those late-night infomercials? ‘Act quick! Limited edition! Only 5 items left. Buy now or miss out’. By our psychological nature, we want something more if it is scarce. The same is with food – it becomes more appealing.
Childhood subconscious programming
Psychological programming occurs as babies (and arguably earlier). For example, being fed to sleep by our mother, we quickly associate love, connection, and soothing with food. Then, when we grow older, if we were good and cleaned our room, we were rewarded with a treat or lolly. So now as an adult, we continue to model this learned behavior. For example, after a long week, you want to treat yourself to a takeaway dinner.
These subconscious memories become our programming. We eat because we are craving a certain feeling. And food becomes the vehicle towards that feeling.
3/ Physiological causes of food cravings
Food cravings are triggered by insufficient calories, skipping meals, blood sugar fluctuation, not enough nutrients in your diet, nutrient deficiency, avoiding pleasure food, food rules etc. Perhaps your blood sugar is fluctuating throughout the day, causing you to eat foods that cause another spike (and then crash) – and the cycle continues. When we don’t consume adequate amount of calories or don’t eat balanced means, by the evening our body will want to catch up on calories or will crave carbs for more energy as we did not eat enough throughout the day.
What can I do?
Ultimately, everyone is different, and it’s important to look at an individual’s specific circumstances. However, as a guide these strategies will help cravings:
- Uncover what you are truly seeking (what is your deeper need? comfort, soothing? Uncouple food from your feelings)
- Regularly eat adequate amounts of food (this will pull you out of survival mode)
- Eat all the food groups (see Balanced Diet Framework)
- Eat foods that give you pleasure and that you enjoy (this will help you avoid survival mode – read this blog for more details)
- Look into your old stories. What is your brain telling you about food? Are you eating food because you feel unlovable or unworthy? Uncouple this and you will find relief
- Finally, identify your triggers and what causes the urges/binge eating
Connecting to your causes of food cravings
To help you to get to the heart of your food cravings, I share everything you need to know about food cravings in this 90 minutes Online Seminar you can now watch anytime from the comfort of your home. You will learn how to understand food cravings, unpacking what they mean and what we can do to feel in control around food.
In this 90-minute online event, Eugenia shares everything you need to know about food cravings, how to understand food cravings, unpacking what they mean and what we can do to feel in control around food.
Come and expect to learn:
- Understand how the brain responds to food and why you feel addicted to food
- Reasons for food cravings from a biological and psychological perspective
- Why the way you eat might be creating food cravings without you even knowing
- Eugenia’s Balanced Diet Framework to reduce or even eliminate debilitating food cravings and constant thoughts around food
- What | when | how much | how often to eat so food is no longer the main focus of your life
- Understand exactly what to do to reduce overeating and binge eating urges
- How to make healthy eating come easily and naturally to you