Have you ever found yourself staring into a half-empty box of cookies wondering “how in the world did I just eat all of those?”
Or feeling so proud that you chose the egg bites over the chocolate croissant at Starbucks with your morning cup of coffee, but then ended up eating a half pint of ice cream while watching Netflix later that night?
We can relate. Almost everyone can!
And we know it’s not so much that you ate the cookies or the ice cream that drives you crazy - it’s the powerless feeling you have when your cravings win.
The good news is that by understanding why you get cravings, you can make better choices that’ll still leave you satisfied without perpetuating the cycle.
WHY DO I GET CRAVINGS?
There are a lot of different things that cause cravings, but what’s important to understand is that cravings are one way your body communicates with you.
Many of you say, “I wish I knew how to control my cravings,” but controlling them isn’t the goal; It’s understanding what they mean.
So, just what exactly is your body trying to tell you?
There are various things, but I’m going to break down 4 of the most common reasons you experience cravings.
Inadequate Nutrient Intake
When your body doesn’t get enough nutrients in a day, it will tell you.
Too often, you try to tell your body what it needs, but it actually tells you what it needs by making certain foods sound especially desirable.
For example, you may crave pasta because you’re not eating enough carbohydrates or you may crave it because you’ve been undereating for 3 days and your body needs a nutrient-dense, higher calorie meal to stop thinking it’s in starvation mode.
You can have general cravings if you’re low in calories or you can have specific cravings if you’re low in certain nutrients.
Lack of Sleep
We touched on this last week, but it’s a commonly overlooked reason for food cravings.
Inadequate sleep creates an imbalance in your hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin, as well as increased cortisol, all causing you to have an increased appetite.
The release of cortisol triggers a craving for high fat, high carb, and sugary foods. When consumed, these foods prompt the body to release serotonin, which simultaneously helps decrease the production of cortisol while elevating your mood.
Lack of sleep also results in low energy, so it often craves sweets and high carb foods that are digested quickly to give you fast energy.
You’re Sad, Stressed, or Anxious
Elevated levels of cortisol in the body are often brought on by feelings stress and sadness.
When you initially experience stress, your body releases adrenaline, suppressing your appetite so you can focus on the stressor. When you’re stressed for an extended period of time, cortisol starts being released, increasing your appetite. Unfortunately, it doesn’t result in a desire to eat more roasted broccoli and kale salad - it makes you crave carbs and sugars that release serotonin.
Restriction of foods tends to create a scarcity mindset. This idea that “this
may be my only opportunity to eat this”.
Has this ever happened to you?
You go to your parents’ house for dinner and warm triple berry crisp with vanilla ice cream is for dessert. You haven’t had sugar for almost 2 months, but you only have dinner with them about every 6 months, so you decide to have a serving.
After the first bite you realize just how delicious it is and you start thinking about how tomorrow you’ll be back to no sugar. This thought quickly turns into a scarcity mindset - you don’t know when you’ll have dessert again so you might as well have a second helping…maybe even a third!
It’s a slippery slope. One that far too often results in feelings of being powerless or out-of-control.
By convincing yourself this may be your only opportunity to enjoy sugar for a while, it becomes a “get it while you can” moment and usually results in eating far more than you were even hungry for.
WHAT CAN I DO?
Whether you’re experiencing cravings from one of these reasons or a different reason, it’s helpful to understand how you can combat them in a healthy way.
Before we get into healthy ways to indulge, it’s worth mentioning that if you’re struggling with cravings, you should first look at the 4 reasons above and see if you can make some lifestyle changes to help curb them.
Maybe you need more hours of sleep at night, maybe you need healthier ways to cope with stress, or perhaps you aren’t eating enough nutrients in your day. Start there and see if you notice a difference.
FINDING YOUR BALANCE
Since we all experience cravings at some point, here’s some healthy options to indulge in that still benefit your body, nutritionally, while helping to satisfy your cravings.
- Dates + nut butter
- KOS Pumpkin Pie Smoothie Bowl
- Dark Chocolate
- KOS Baked Oats
- KOS Love You Berry Much + sparkling water
- KOS Fruit Popsicles
- KOS Show Me the Greens
Drink 16oz of water first! Most of the time when our body craves salt, we’re actually dehydrated.
- Salted Nuts
- Hummus + pretzel thins / vegetables
- Dried seaweed
- Rice Cakes + Nut Butter
- Hardboiled egg with sea salt
- Electrolyte beverage
- Hummus + crackers or veggies
- Whole grain toast + avocado
- KOS Ultra Greens Smoothie
- KOS Apple Cider Oats
- Legume/Lentil based pasta
- Dark chocolate
- Chocolate almond milk
- Nuts / Seeds
- KOS Black Forest Cake Shake
- Chocolate Zucchini Brownies