June 18, 2015


General Health

Cravings, and cravings, and cravings…oh my!

Cupcakes. I’m not sure what it is about cupcakes, but it seems when I get a craving for sweets (which seems like a lot lately) it is always for a chocolatey and moist piece of deliciousness wrapped in paper and topped with a pile of frosting. Sprinkles, optional.  (Cue drooling).

Do you ever get overwhelming cravings? Maybe it is at a certain time of the day, or when you are stressed or perhaps when you smell something it sends your brain into a frenzy?

Cravings can be a nasty side effect of many weight-management programs, in addition to just being a part of life.  These cravings can be for a few reasons—you may be deficient in certain vitamins or minerals, perhaps you are thirsty, or you really like a certain food and you have told yourself you cannot have it. I’m not sure about you, but there have been times when I have been told “no”, that I want something that much more (sorry for all my shenanigans, mom).

Many times, our cravings are caused by triggers.  Triggers can be anything from stress, to particular locations (grocery store, couch, kitchen), to certain smells (candles, candy, fast food) or certain people that tell our brain that we need to eat—even if we’re not hungry! I know when I am stressed, my brain immediately tells me to start eating as a ‘coping mechanism’ even if I had just had lunch a few minutes prior.  Another example that I have, is that I made the mistake earlier this year of burning a chocolate cake scented candle in my kitchen. You better believe every time I walked into my kitchen, I wanted something sweet. The simple smell was enough of a trigger to make me feel hungry, and that I needed something sweet.

Identifying what “sets us off” and what causes those triggers is a way to deal with the root problem, and to move forward stronger with more ammunition, if you will, against those cravings. Taking the time to consciously think “what am I craving”, “why am I craving this”, “am I actually hungry or bored/thirsty/tired” and “what can I have in place of this _____________(food)” will help you to keep on track, and again, get to the root of the problem.

One of the best tricks I have learned for when cravings attack, is to have easy and healthy snacks available. I will make my own trail mix and put it into little snack baggies or Tupperware. I will also make sure to have lots of fresh fruit available, and also have cut up vegetables readily available in my fridge. That way if a craving hits, I’m less likely to grab my ‘vices’—chips and sweets. I also have gum in various places that is easily accessible—in my office, kitchen, bedroom and even my living room. Many times it’s enough to turn the craving off, and feel satisfied that my mouth is occupied.

Another great suggestion, brought to my attention from one of my department’s interns, was to drink a glass of water when a craving hits. Sometimes our hungry can be misconstrued as thirst, and drinking a glass of water can help to curb that craving and help keep you hydrated.

Sometimes, you’re going to give to your craving. That cake, cookie, pizza or chips will get the best of you and you will give in. I am a believer that sometimes it is better to ‘give in’ to a craving than to eat everything else in sight trying to satisfy that urge. I will go back to my cupcake craving. There are times I am so deeply craving a cupcake, that I tell myself “no, you don’t need that” or “it’s not healthy”, but I end up eating two or three times what I would normally eat because I am trying to satisfy that craving and urge, but it never quite hits the spot (and usually, I’m not eating a bag of carrots—it’s what I can get my hands on!).  I would’ve felt full and more satisfied had I had that cupcake, and in turn would’ve had less calories.  Another option, is to have a small sliver or small portion of what you’re craving. It may be enough to get it out of your system, without sacrificing too many calories. Just make sure to not make this a habit—you’re trying to re-train your brain and make changes, and this approach will be more of a setback when done repeatedly.

Many times, cravings are in response to a stimulus and you may need learn a different approach when that urge hits. Being able to identify WHY you are having that craving will help you to move forward with either eliminating that stimulus or arming you with the ability to say “no” and have another coping method. If you do give in to a craving, it does not make you a failure, or that your whole wellness goal is off—but rather that you are human, and you have the ability to continue on and move forward with those goals stronger next time when the cravings hit!

Until next time!