There is so much more to your cravings than you know! Your body may be telling you something…
You know the feeling. You’re sitting at home trying to wind down, and bam! All your brain can think about are the potato chips in your pantry calling your name. Something salty, or maybe something sweet? Or maybe all you want is… well, anything! You’re tired, you’re hungry and you can’t get your mind off of it? Welcome to your brain and body on cravings.
There are deeper meanings to your cravings. Your body is smarter than you are! So it is forcing you to notice something that is missing in your diet, or your day. Or maybe it’s just your brain running away with you? Keep reading to find out what your cravings are telling you, and how to acquiesce to them without ruining your diet… or finishing that bag of potato chips in your cabinet (no offense Lay’s).
Can’t get something salty off your mind? It’s one of the most common cravings out there. Pretzels, roasted/salted nuts, potato chips? Those pesky snacks that you crave and always look so appealing that just make you feel bloated and add WAY too much sodium than is worth it.
So why do you crave them? You are dehydrated! So your body craves something that will make you even thirstier and make you want to drink more water. I know, at first it seems a little backwards, but it works! Your body wants something savory to activate your salivary glands and hydrate you again. But it can also means that you have an electrolyte imbalance.
Now, what to do? Instead of reaching for the bag of chips, grab your water bottle and guzzle. I mean it! Guzzle! Then wait 10 minutes and you won’t even remember what snacks you were looking for. You should also throw in some potassium-rich foods, which brings water to your cells and hydrates them. That would include foods like avocado and sweet potatoes (I know, twist my arm, right?)
For those who can’t quit that sweet-tooth; when you give in, you just want to keep giving. That’s the problem with sweets. The more you have, the more you want. So there usually isn’t just 1-2 bites to rid that sweet craving. In brain studies, sugar provides a hit to the brain’s opioid system as well as the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. Essentially, it’s a reward for your brain! Which is why you want it so badly.
So what to do? Try something naturally sweet, naturally occurring sugar that is also balanced in fiber as well as other nutrients, like fruit! It will trick your brain with the sweet(er) taste but without the dramatic spike in blood sugar. After doing this a few times you can rewire your sweet cravings, so in a few weeks you might not need that bag of candy!
Late night snacker? I know the feeling, you get home from a long day at work and you’re so tired, that all you want to do is eat! Sit, watch your reality tv show (don’t deny it!) and snack away. This was one of my biggest issues when my eating disorder took a turn. I went from not eating anything to overeating, and bingeing because I was so tired (and unhappy, more on that below). So why does this happen? Doesn’t make sense, right? You’re tired, wouldn’t you be too tired to do anything?
Wrong! Your hormones that control your hunger are effected big time when your’e overtired. That means the your satiety levels are effected. So you really can’t tell if you’re full, or even if you’re hungry at all. Eating this late can also mess with your digestion and disrupt your sleep. And I want NOTHING to get in my way of a good night’s sleep.
What to do, what to do… make sure to plan ahead and find a nice small snack that won’t overstuff you before bed. Or, simply distract yourself! Go straight to bed and read, or start another activity that will keep your mind distracted. Because that’s the trick, you aren’t actually hungry, your leptin and cortisol just can’t get back in control.
But my personal favorite? Drink hot water with lemon. Not only does it help with digestion so you will feel better in the morning (see why here), but it will also give your stomach a little something to appease that “hunger” you feel. I usually drink it at night because there’s something to a warm beverage that calms me down. Like warm milk… but for adults!
Now, for my biggest culprit of all. When I was at my worst, the sad days would exacerbate everything. When you have a bad day, your serotonin dopamine, and feel-good neurotransmitters act like anti depressants. So like when you’re overtired, your naturally occurring regulators can’t do their job!
Now, not all of these comfort foods that you crave when you are down are unhealthy diet-wreckers, but a lot are! We try to use food as medicine, so all we need is a different “treatment”. Or, have a bad-mood back up plan! Have a snack, a drink, or an activity that you can do instead. I have found that meditating helps. I use The Headspace App, which disconnects me from that bad mood, and distracts me from everything that happened earlier. Not interested? Try the 30-minute rule. Because you act on the bad-mood cravings, set a 30-minute timer to do ANYTHING else, then see how you feel afterwards.
Long-story short, sometimes you should give into your cravings. Sometimes you do need to indulge just a little bit to make yourself feel better. But sometimes, you can beat your cravings and you will feel better for it! You don’t have to let them control your actions, your mood, or even your diet! Listen to your cravings, know what they mean, and treat them in the healthiest way you can. It will make you feel tons better in the long run!