Cravings have life of their own. They sleep for a while, then suddenly wake up and take you up for a roller coaster ride.
Or at least that’s what it seems.
As with everything though there is a reason your body craves certain foods, not just any foods. Most commonly I see people crave processed carbs like bread, crackers and biscuits.
Then there is another camp of savoury cravers looking more for combinations of salt & fat in the form of cheese, fries or crisps. And last but not the least there are cravings for chocolate – a combo of fat, sugar and brain stimulating arousing chemicals.
All of these cravings seem different but the root often lies in some form of deprivation.
It can be anywhere from nutritional deficiencies to lack of closeness or security. But it can also be hormonal changes in our body or going through a stressful period of our life.
Here I’m going to pin down 5 main culprits of cravings which I believe if taken care of, will reduce your cravings to minimum.
You eat processed foods regularly
What we eat we crave. And if you eat some processed foods (be it on occasion but regularly), you keep reminding yourself of these rich flavours. It can be something as innocent looking as store bought plant-based burgers, vegan pizzas or vegan chocolate bars. These products are highly processed containing high amounts of refined sugar, fat and salt.
When you combine these 3 flavours in one bite they speak deep to the core of your instincts. They send a message of pleasure and survival reinforcing that this is the right choice to make. Then it’s hard for your brain to forget and keep enjoying fresh fruits and veg like before. As long as you keep processed foods regularly in your diet, not only you’ll think of them, you’ll also crave them.
You need more time
Your diet is already clean and you eat plenty of fresh produce, whole grains, legumes and small amounts of nuts & seeds, yet you still have cravings. In this case you just may need more time.
More time for your good bacteria to grow and repopulate your gut, so it starts making a difference in the way you feel. As the good bacteria feast on all the nutritious plants you provide, they produce short chain fatty acids. These short from miracle “chemicals” impact your mood, overall health and drive your food choices. Also in this case it’s true that what you eat you crave. If you eat enough greens and beans, that’s what you’ll eventually crave instead of the unhealthy stuff.
Your diet may be high in fat
Yes, even if they are healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocado and nut butters. Eating too much fat can force your hand and you end up gravitating towards fattier foods naturally. How much is too much? Ideally you should keep the total fat content below 20% of your daily Kcal. This is easily done by avoiding refined oils and keeping nuts/seeds servings to 2 handfuls per day.
When you get over this amount not only you’ll crave fat, your insulin sensitivity is impaired too. The extra fat is blocking effect of insulin causing glucose from food to stay in your blood longer than it should. As a result it doesn’t get into your cells which need it for energy. Then what do you crave? You essentially crave that energy, refined carbs.
You are undereating
If you are not eating enough calories, you’ll body will ask for it. Eating anywhere around 1200 Kcal/day (many weight loss diets follow this number), will result in cravings. Cravings in this case are a way your body makes sure you’ll get enough energy for billions of physiological reactions it has to do every day. That’s why underrating never works long term.
You can do it for a few days, maybe weeks but eventually your biology will make you top up on calories and cravings will shoot through the roof. To avoid this you don’t want to eat less than about 1500 Kcal/day on average of the nourishing plant foods. But rather than counting, just eat until comfortably full and cravings will go away.
Not getting enough sleep
There is a proverb: “Good sleep is sweeter than honey.” And I couldn’t agree more. Going to bed around 10-11 pm (if you can’t, definitely before midnight) and getting 7-8 hours of sleep minimum is essential. If you are sleep deprived, your food choices are impaired. Instead of making conscious decisions, you resolve more into fight or flight response and become driven by instincts. This means that cravings for salt, sugar and fat kick in full force. In addition your satiety hormones and your appetite are mis-calibrated. Your appetite increases, you want fattier, saltier, more sugary stuff. You are looking for more security and comfort through food when all your body needs is a proper sleep which is sweater than honey.
As mentioned at the beginning there is plethora of reasons why you may crave but the important thing is to start tackling one at a time. I have a feeling you know instinctively what’s your shortcoming. So start there.
Pick one point and tackle that head on. See if that makes a difference. Then move onto another.
As with everything in life, getting cravings under control is about showing up and perseverance. It’s also about trying different angles and see which has an impact, then building on that.
You can do this. I have no doubt.