Food Cravings? Manage Them With an Intuitive Approach

by Caitlin H,

May 13, 2024

Food Cravings

Food cravings are a part of life.

Whether you find your mind wandering to how nice it would be to enjoy a favorite baked good or feel an insatiable need for a childhood staple, cravings are real.

For some people, they’re harmless. But for others, they can quickly get out of hand, leading to overeating and excess calories that derail weight loss plans and make achieving goals pretty darn impossible.

Let’s dive deeper into food cravings — their causes, how analyzing them may help us explore ourselves on a deeper level, and how to manage them.

 

What Causes Food Cravings?


Food cravings are caused by various factors — sometimes physical, and sometimes mental. They can even signal an underlying medical condition, so it’s best not to ignore them.

 



Sleep Deprivation: Not getting enough sleep can disrupt your hormone balance, making it more challenging to regulate hunger and fullness.

Lack of Nutrients: If you’re not getting filling nutrients like protein and fiber, you may experience cravings even if you’re taking in recommended daily calories.

Hunger and Fullness Hormone Disruption: Certain people may have an imbalance of leptin and ghrelin, causing them to experience food cravings more often than others.

Lack of Hydration: Drinking enough water and other healthy fluids is essential to staving off cravings.

Pregnancy: Pregnant women often experience hormonal changes that influence taste and smell, causing more intense cravings.

Exercise: Believe it or not, increasing your level of exercise may help reduce food cravings. On the flip side, not exercising may cause a spike in cravings.

 



Stress and Anxiety: Constant worrying and feeling stretched thin tends to cause stress levels to spike, which in turn increases your cortisol production. Studies have linked higher levels of cortisol to binge-eating behaviors.

Your State of Mind: For some, feeling down or sad can trigger cravings. For others, feeling happy and exuberant can do the same.

Mental Context: Your mind may associate certain foods with specific situations, such as a corn dog at a fair. The next time the situation arises, you may find yourself craving the food you’ve already associated with it.

Personality: Some studies have linked food addiction and cravings to certain personality types, such as those who are more impulsive or those who have traits associated with addictive personalities.

 

An Intuitive Approach


It can feel tempting to take a restrictive approach to managing cravings, but that’s unlikely to work in the long run. Instead, taking an intuitive approach by analyzing what’s behind your cravings can ultimately lead to long-term successful outcomes, rather than trying to restrict yourself constantly.

Here are some concrete steps you can take to do just that.

 



Whenever a craving arises, pause and sit with the sensation, trying to understand what’s going on in your day that led to it. Focus on the five senses:

 

  • Where is the feeling in your body?
  • What sensations, memories, or mental images are you experiencing?
  • Where is the craving coming from?


Taking time to explore your triggers is the best first step to deciding whether you need this food or can go without it.

 



Next, ask yourself if you can take another approach to deal with the craving rather than giving in to it. Examples include:

 

  • Drinking water
  • Going for a walk
  • Calling a family member or friend
  • Napping
  • Taking a bath
  • Reading a book


Replacing the thought of food with an experience may make the craving less intense.

 



There was a time when your body naturally told you when you were full, and you stopped eating. As we grow up, some of us lose that ability and instead allow our food addiction to take the steering wheel.

Instead, focus on your belly’s sensations: Is it full? Empty? Does it feel warm? Cold? Think about it and anything that comes to mind — there are no wrong answers here.

As you focus on it, take some deep breaths for a few minutes and feel whether you want to eat the food you’re craving. Whether you do or don’t, it’s fine.

These steps help you listen to your body and trust it’s working for you.

 



The more you practice the two steps above each time you get a craving, the better you’ll be able to recognize your body’s natural cues.

Recognizing your body’s natural cues allows you to block out the constant clutter and messaging society throws out, instead getting in touch with your unique triggers and desires.

 



Cravings are natural for everyone, but if you’ve associated them with unhealthy eating habits or feeling sick in the past, it can lead to being afraid you’ll lose control whenever they arrive.

Instead, embrace them. Recognize they will be a part of your life and may indicate a need or allow you to learn about yourself.

 



Taking all the steps above can set you up for success in seeing if there’s something else you can try to mitigate the craving instead.

This is extremely personal for everyone and can be any number of things, such as love, acceptance, friendship, rest, intimacy, and more.

 

The Bottom Line


Ultimately, taking the time to ask what’s going on and slowing down to explore the cravings on a deeper level is a powerful way to learn about yourself and take the steps necessary to manage those cravings for life.

 

 

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Author: Caitlin H

Diet-to-Go Community Manager

Caitlin is the Diet-to-Go community manager and an avid runner. She is passionate about engaging with others online and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. She believes moderation is key, and people will have the most weight loss success if they engage in common-sense healthy eating and fitness.

 


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