How to Conquer Food Cravings

Mindset // Lisa Donaldson, APD, M.Nutr&Diet, B.Edu

Let’s face it, we all have cravings from time to time – it’s a part of being human.

Food cravings can be one of the trickiest things to overcome when changing eating habits, but it CAN be done! We asked 12WBT Dietitian Lisa Donaldson the how, what, when and why of food cravings, and more importantly, how to conquer them.

Why do people have food cravings?

Scientists cannot pinpoint the true cause of cravings but have recognised that it is a different sensation to hunger. The body is able to regulate hunger but cravings can be relentless! Cravings may be triggered by a memory, emotions, a habit or even a slight deficiency.

Ever crave something sweet or salty after a massive workout? That could be linked to the need to refuel correctly.

Why do people crave sugary or fatty foods?

Sugary and fatty foods are linked to pleasure. They release chemicals known as ‘opioids’ into the bloodstream that bind to receptors in our brain that signal ‘pleasure’.

People feel much better after they have their ‘hit’, a bit like a drug addiction for those who struggle with emotional or binge eating. The ‘euphoria’ that follows is hard to resist.

What are some tips to beat food cravings?

Pin point if there is a trigger. Did you hear someone talking about pizza for dinner? Did you smell warm cinnamon donuts and coffee as you passed a café? Did you see a TV add for a chocolate bar on the television?

Do you buy a packet of chips from the servo every time you get petrol? Start to get in touch with true hunger, signalled by a belly growl and grumble, rather than a habit or an environmental trigger.

Should people treat themselves every once in a while to battle cravings?

It’s a great idea to ‘make a date’ with your favourite food during the week. When it is less of a daily treat it becomes more of special event and you will learn to savour it more! Eat it slowly and without guilt. Make a date with your cake – don’t ‘ban’ it. As soon as you ban it will nag you!

Does boredom play a role in cravings?

It’s important you recognise if you eat out of boredom. Sometimes keeping a food diary can highlight this. If you find yourself eating out of boredom, write a list of ‘to dos’ that lives on your fridge. Everything from Clean the shower to Catch up with Mum for a cup of tea.

Does ‘that time of the month’ play a role in cravings?

Unfortunately ‘that time of the month’ produces lower serotonin levels, which can stimulate the need for pleasure as discussed earlier. The desire for sweet and/or fatty foods can be certainly come into play – that’s why chocolate is often a lady’s best friend once a month!