Are you always at the mercy of your food cravings? Whether it’s sweet, creamy, salty or fatty that grabs your attention, cravings can feel overwhelming. But once you understand why you’re craving certain foods, it becomes easier to tame them.

Physical causes of food cravings

There is a very real physical aspect to your cravings. Your brain is crying out for a boost to feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. But there are also physical drivers behind this process to consider.

Insulin resistance

A common cause of sweet cravings is insulin resistance. This is when your cells are no longer responding to the insulin in your bloodstream, so they struggle to get enough energy to function properly. As a result, your body demands more sweet, carb-rich foods to try and get the fuel it needs.

Insulin resistance is often interlinked with other hormone imbalances such as low thyroid function and excess testosterone. PS – when you’re insulin resistant, it’s incredibly difficult to lose weight without correcting the insulin issue first.

Hormone imbalances

Surprise surprise, your hormone fluctuations can play a role in your food cravings! The cause can vary depending on the specific hormone picture, but can include:

  • Contributing to insulin resistance
  • Throwing off the balance of hunger hormones
  • Adding to the body’s stress burden (more on this a bit later)
  • Less stimulation of feel-good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine after eating

If you suspect a hormone imbalance is to blame for your cravings, the best route is to get some testing done. That way, we can confirm which hormones are out of whack and restore some balance to your system.

Nutrient deficiencies

As many nutrients play a role in brain chemistry, energy production and regulation of blood sugar, it’s easy to see how low nutrient levels can increasing cravings.

For example, if you don’t get enough chromium, your blood sugar balance will fluctuate more often. If you’re low in magnesium, your energy production cycle will be sluggish.

The best way to identify these is to work with a healthcare practitioner. A good practitioner will look not only at what you eat, but how you might be lacking nutrients through poor absorption, high use in the body, or high excretion of nutrient stores.

Not eating enough food!

Yes, I often see this in the clinic. So many women have had it drilled into them that they can only eat 1200 calories if they want to lose weight. As a result, their bodies freak out at the lack of fuel and demand calorie-dense foods non-stop!

If you want to get a handle on your food cravings, you need to eat more food – real food, that is. Eating 3 wholefood-based meals with plenty of veg, healthy fats, and a good serve of protein will do wonders for taming those overwhelming desires.

Emotional causes of food cravings

Although physical aspects play a significant role, we can’t ignore the influence of emotions on your food cravings. Let’s take a look at some common effects your emotional state has on what you crave.

High stress levels

This is technically both emotional and physical, because stress has a very real impact on our hormones. Stress can lower your thyroid hormones and throw off the balance of sex hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone. It increases your risk of insulin resistance by interfering with how your body metabolises carbohydrates.

Stress can also alter dopamine levels in the brain. The more stressed out you are, the less of a feel-good hit you get from dopamine, so you get more cravings as a way to boost up the feel-good.

If that wasn’t enough, stress also throws off your serotonin production, as well as some calming brain chemicals such as GABA. And keep in mind, these are just some of the most direct impacts stress has on appetite and cravings – there are countless other indirect mechanisms as well.

It’s no wonder we reach for tasty food when we’re under the pump!

Avoiding a specific emotion, thought or feeling

Do you avoid unpleasant experiences like the plague? If so, your cravings might be your way of distracting yourself from your thoughts and feelings.

Unfortunately, the solution to this one isn’t eating more healthy foods or going for a walk. It is to sit with how you’re feeling and observing the thoughts that you’re trying to run away from. I promise it’s more scary from a distance than it is when you just accept how you’re thinking and feeling!

Emotional eating

Even if you don’t actively avoid emotions, you could use food as a way to process your emotions. Again, this comes back to the brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.

When you eat yummy foods, you get a boost which makes you feel a bit better. This can make it easier to process unpleasant emotions such as sadness, fear or frustration.

To work through this, think about how you can induce the same level of supportive feel-good minus the food. Can you go for a walk? Chat with a friend about the situation? Sit down and journal out how you’re feeling? Find a method that works for you sans caloric overload.

Food-related habits

Finally, we come to the classic food habit situation. Have you sat down on the couch every single Sunday afternoon and eaten chocolate? It might not even be that you’re craving chocolate that much – your body remembers the cues.

It knows that couch on Sunday = chocolate time. So you unconsciously reach for the chocolate and demolish a block without even realising it! This response is stronger when you are feeling down or stressed because your brain will demand that dopamine hit.

The solution? Switch up the routine so that the habit is no longer automatic. Maybe you switch your downtime to Sunday morning and spend the afternoon doing your usual chores and errands. Or maybe you try having a Sunday nap instead (you’re welcome!)

On the lookout for more ways to tame your cravings? Give this blog a read.

Want to get your food cravings under control once and for all?

Once you find out why you crave certain foods and the underlying processes contributing, you won’t need to battle your body’s cues anymore. By taking a holistic and tailored approach, we can help you to not only tame those pesky cravings, but also feel trust in your own body again.

Book in for a free discovery call today, and we can explore how I can help you to reboot your body and feel good again.