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The Facts on Food Cravings: When to Resist and When to Give in

Posted Mar 08 2012 2:00pm
food cravings

Get the facts on food cravings before the angel and devil duke it out on your shoulder. Credit: lisadragon

Your mouth is watering, you are distracted, and all you can think about is a blissful piece of smooth chocolate melting in your mouth while angels toot trumpets next to your head. This craving is driving you crazy, but you don’t want to give in. You’ve been doing so great with eating healthy and staying on track and you’re not actually hungry, so you decide to hit the internet for a little motivation to resist. The number one article on resisting food cravings that pops up on Google tells you to use “the swap method.” Craving chocolate ? Eat a piece of fruit . Um, ok. Cause those are the same.

This is not that type of article.

Cravings are real. They aren’t just a lack of willpower. Cravings can usually be categorized as either psychological (I’m stressed; gimmie chocolate now!) or physiological (you are dehydrated , therefore, you feel thirsty) and somewhere in between (I’m starving and need to eat. Man, a big filling cheeseburger sounds PERFECT right now!) Where do these all consuming urges to eat come from? Despite popular belief, says Mary Hartley, RD, “studies show that food cravings are not linked to nutrient deficiencies.”

“People who have unstable blood sugar—metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes and diabetes—do have physical cravings for food when their blood sugar drops,” says Hartley, resident nutritionist at Diets In Review who blogs at AskMaryRD.com . ”But for everyone else, cravings are mostly psychological.”

A psychological food craving happens when you see something tasty, smell a yummy aroma or a stressor causes you to reach for something comforting. Stress, depression, happiness, even boredom, can cause you to crave a certain food or just food in general. The good thing about psychological cravings is that they do pass as time goes on, if you are strong enough not to give in to them or come up with a game plan to stop them in their tracks.


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