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The myth of food cravings

Food cravings mean that our bodies are trying to tell us we are lacking something, right?  If you're craving something salty, you must need salt; if you are simply dying for a piece of Dove chocolate, there must be something in that chocolate that your body needs, surely? However, how often do you have a craving for something truly healthy, like carrots, skim milk or chicken? Many cravings stem from remembering a pleasant memory of eating a particular food or meal rather than a physiological need to ingest mass quantities of butter pecan ice cream.

Diets and cravings

People who are on a diet know all too well that we tend to have strong cravings for foods they are trying to avoid, mainly comfort foods that temporarily take away the feeling of deprivation one feels when attempting to lose weight.

But should you give in to cravings, or should you wait them out?

Giving into cravings

Denying cravings can be tough. It's common to want something you can't have, especially if you've built them up in your mind as "forbidden." If you are trying to be a clean eater, or cutting out processed fats and sugar, you will definitely have cravings in the beginning. Don't feel bad if you give into them. However, you should do your best to cut back on them over time.  Often, you'll find that your appetite for items you haven't eaten in a long time wanes significantly, and you can more easily eat a small bit of something rather than a bunch.

Denying cravings

For some people, giving into cravings triggers a cycle of binge eating.  One donut isn't enough, or just one slice of pizza turns into three gooey pieces.  If you find yourself scarfing ice cream at intervals that are not pre-planned, or you know that you can't eat just a small helping, you may have to throw in the towel on eating that trigger food, at least in the short term.  Give it 30 days.  Or 60.  Or try giving it up altogether.  You can do it, really - no one ever died from chocolate malnourishment.

Variety Helps

As your diet becomes healthier, eating foods that aren't processed and full of preservatives and chemicals will make cravings easier to handle. You will have more variety in your meals, learn how to prepare meals differently, and eventually those processed foods will lose their flavor and hopefully, your lust for them.  Also, using a healthier substitute may help break your cravings by actually giving your body what it wants in general - nutrition.  Try 60%+ cacao dark chocolate (Trader Joe's sells 75% dark chocolate-covered cocoa nibs that are one calorie each, about 140 calories a container) instead of milk chocolate, or air-popped popcorn with garlic salt and onion powder in place of potato chips.

It all takes time but a good way to start is to learn more about cravings, how they work and know what you can do to overcome them.

Have you had a hard time dealing with food cravings? How did you handle it?

More reading:  How food cravings work