Food is essential for our daily lives because it provides us with the energy and nutrition we need to survive. It is also a source of pleasure and satisfaction, especially since one of the best feelings a person can experience is chowing down on a hearty meal after a long day. For this reason, people are encouraged to indulge their cravings.
However, cravings are a double-edged sword. Most people see cravings as nothing more than a sign that their bodies need something, which is true. However, cravings can become unhealthy habits that—if left unchecked—can lead to overeating and weight gain. While lifestyle changes can make a difference, it is still worth knowing what causes these cravings because knowing the root of the problem can help you manage them better.
With this in mind, food cravings can be categorized into three distinct categories. These include:
Mental Causes of Food Cravings
Most food cravings can be attributed to mental causes, such as:
Stress is one of the most common mental causes of food cravings. Stress can cause an individual to seek comfort or pleasure in food, leading to cravings for foods high in sugar or fat. Stress can also lead to decreased self-control, making it more difficult to resist cravings. Additionally, they may turn to food as a coping mechanism when stressed, leading to increased food cravings.
Sometimes, we may want to eat something, even when not hungry. This can be a sign that our mood is influencing our food cravings. We may crave comfort foods like chocolate or ice cream when feeling down. When we’re feeling excited or happy, we may crave foods that are more vibrant in flavor. Additionally, when feeling anxious or overwhelmed, we may crave foods high in sugar or fat, which can provide a quick energy boost.
Suppose you want to watch a movie. Chances are you have a particular habit associated with the experience. You may like to have a bowl of popcorn and a soda before you press play. Just the same, habits can be helpful because they help us to become more organized, but they can also be detrimental if they involve unhealthy food choices.
4. Social Media
There is a reason why social media greatly influences people. Whenever we see food in our feed, we instantly crave it. This craving is particularly hard to overcome because your mind will condition you to crave until you have it. You can resist, but your mind will keep prompting you until you give in.
5. Eating Disorders
It is a harsh reality that eating disorders can affect our cravings. The condition can influence our cravings and make us crave unhealthy, sugary, or fatty foods. Eating disorders can also cause us to become obsessed with certain foods, leading to unhealthy cravings.
Physical Causes of Food Cravings
Physical causes of food cravings are generally related to lack or abundance of bodily conditions, such as:
1. Lack of Nutrients
A lack of essential nutrients, such as calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins A and B, can cause food cravings. When the body is deficient in these nutrients, it can cause an urge to consume certain foods. Examples of these cravings include cravings for sweets, salty foods, and fatty foods. Cravings for these foods can be the body’s way of replenishing the depleted nutrients, so one must get the necessary nutrients from other foods to prevent further cravings. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins can help to keep cravings at bay.
2. Lack of Sleep
Not getting enough sleep can also be a cause of food cravings. When the body is tired, it can be hard to make healthy food choices because, again, the body may crave sugary or fatty foods to give it a quick boost of energy. Additionally, lack of sleep can lead to increased hormones (ghrelin and leptin), which can cause the brain to crave certain foods.
3. Overexercising while Undereating
Overexercising while undereating can cause food cravings as the body is not getting enough energy to fuel its activities. When the body is deprived of the necessary nutrients, it can cause an urge to consume certain foods to replenish the depleted nutrients. Additionally, the body may lack essential vitamins and minerals, leading to cravings for certain types of food.
Menstruation and PMS
For women, menstruation and PMS can lead to food cravings. During the menstrual cycle, hormones such as estrogen and progesterone fluctuate, which can trigger cravings. Additionally, during PMS, the body is affected by decreased serotonin levels, which can trigger cravings for sugary and fatty foods.
Severe Causes of Food Cravings
Severe causes of food cravings are rooted in certain conditions. These include:
Iron deficiency can lead to a condition known as anemia, which can cause intense cravings for certain foods, such as red meat, eggs, and dark leafy greens.
2. Low Blood Sugar
Low blood sugar levels can cause intense cravings for sugary or fatty foods. This is because your body needs more glucose to function correctly.
3. Addison’s Disease
Addison’s disease is a rare disorder caused by the adrenal glands not producing enough hormones. This can cause intense cravings for salty foods as the body tries to replenish its lost sodium.
4. Seeking Professional Help
If you are experiencing intense cravings you cannot control anymore, you must seek professional help. Your doctor can help you identify the underlying cause and provide you with the necessary treatment. Of course, you must do your part and follow the doctor’s instructions. This may include lifestyle changes, dietary changes, and even medication.
Having cravings for food is fine, but you must learn to control them and ensure they do not become out of control. Whether you make lifestyle changes alone or consult a doctor, you must take action to manage your cravings. This way, you can look forward to enjoying your favorite foods while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
If you are looking for a weight loss clinic in Birmingham, AL, Weigh to Wellness is the place for you! We understand the needs of our patients, so we work with them to ensure they get a comprehensive treatment plan to help them achieve their goals. Call us today at (205) 994-2393 for a free consultation!