Are you finding that you are craving more carbohydrates these days? You aren’t alone. Based on the questions I am getting from clients and what I see happening on social media, food cravings are something we are all facing. In this post, I highlight 5 general culprits that lead us to our food cravings.
1. Environmental triggers – location, time, people, environmental stimuli
With most of us staying close to home and within easy walking distance to the fridge or pantry, we have lots of visual cues that are prompting us to eat more than usual. If we think back to our regular routine, we are often away from our kitchen or pantry. Maybe we are in an office, we are running errands, or we are outside. We are in places where food isn’t directly in our face.
Environmental triggers can include location but can also include people or time. For example you may be done with eating, but if you see your partner or child eating, you may be cued to continue eating.
2. Individual physiological triggers
There are a number of things in our body that can trigger cravings:
3. Habits or learned associations
Anytime we have habits that are challenging for us to “break”, it is helpful to think about them based on their cue, the actual habit and the reward we get from that habit.
A common habit people have is eating while sitting and watching TV or a movie.
|Watching TV||eating or snacking while watching||The reward is individual for all of us. It might be pleasure. It might be stimulation. It might be zoning out.
Once we can identify the behavioural chain, we can look at adjusting the cue-habit-reward pattern. We can create new cues. We can plan to respond differently with a pre-planned habit. We can look at the reward we are seeking and think about how else we can intentionally create ways to obtain that reward.
4) Emotional cravings
We are all on an emotional roller coaster these days. Different emotions can trigger a response of self-soothing. For some of us, this self-soothing response is eating. Consider the emotions of sadness, loss, loneliness, boredom, anger, fear, feeling trapped and more, and what you tend to gravitate toward to give yourself some relief from these emotions.
Noticing and naming what emotion it is that you feel is an important step in slowing down how automatically we respond to emotional cravings. It also allows us to create a plan for self-soothing in ways that don’t just include food. If you need support with your emotional and mental health (and really, who doesn’t?), a registered psychologist or Access Mental Health can be an invaluable support.
5) Hedonic cravings
We all have our vices. Personally, I love salty snacks. This mouth hunger is when we are specifically seeking a kind of taste experience – sweet, salty, crunchy, creamy, cold, spicy and more. These kinds of hedonic cravings are stronger if we have been restricting our access to this kind of food. Hedonic cravings are especially hard to resist when we haven’t fuelled our bodies.
So there you have it – the 5 general culprits that result in cravings. Keep in mind, that it isn’t what you do once in a while that matters. It is what you do consistently that matters. If changing your response to food cravings is important to you, start with awareness and what might be inviting these cravings in the first place.
Want to take a deeper dive into food cravings? Contact myself or another registered dietitian to help you.