What Your Food Cravings Mean

What Your Food Cravings Mean

Your snack urges may be a sign that something鈥檚 out of balance in your life

When a chocolate fix hits so intensely that you feel like you鈥檒l scream if you don鈥檛 get a candy bar, it鈥檚 easy to blame it on your sweet tooth or stress. But food cravings may actually be a clue that you鈥檙e longing for something not found in a grocery store, says Sophie Skover, author of The Continuous Appetite. 鈥淢ost compulsive food cravings are an indication that something in your life is out of balance.鈥

Learn what your hunger pangs may be trying to tell you so you can find other ways to satisfy your true cravings鈥攁nd avoid unnecessary calories.

When you鈥檙e jonesing for chocolate, stop and evaluate how your sleep has been lately. 鈥淲hen tired, many people crave carbohydrates for a quick energy boost since carbs are our main source of fuel,鈥 says explains Elizabeth DeRobertis, R.D., who practices in Westchester, New York. And simple carbs, such as sugar and white bread, are digested quicker than complex ones such as whole grains and beans, so the energy kicks in sooner.

Unfortunately that sugar 鈥渉igh鈥 lasts as long as a your guy’s attention span when you try to chat during a football game, and it leads to an inevitable crash鈥攂ut few people can fit a nap into their day. As an alternative, go take a walk. In a University of Georgia study, people who worked out at a low-intensity for 20 minutes reported a 65 percent drop in feelings of fatigue.

A handful of nuts a day can be a healthy snack, but it can also hint to an inner frustration and irritation, says Skover. 鈥淭he act of chewing and cracking the food in your mouth can momentarily release that angst, but the problem is the second that the crunching stops, the frustration returns鈥攁nd many people go back to eating more and can end up polishing off an entire bag of chips.鈥

A better way to release that tension is to punch a punching bag or do any kind of exercise, which will release endorphins to boost your mood, DeRobertis explains. Or put in your earbuds: Several studies have shown that relaxing music really does relieve stress. 鈥淎nd pack carrot sticks to have on-hand when you want a healthier crunchy snack,鈥 DeRobertis adds.

Dishes such as ice cream, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese are called 鈥渃omfort foods鈥 for a reason: 鈥淐raving them possibly points to worrisome thoughts, and what you really need is to be soothed,鈥 says Skover.

These are also high-carb, high-fat foods. 鈥淐arbs boost the 鈥榝eel-good鈥 hormone serotonin, and when you eat something high in both carbs and fat, it can trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure and reward,鈥 DeRobertis explains.

While a bowl of butter pecan may make you feel better in the moment, 鈥渦sually the worries return when the person realizes how many calories they consumed, and then guilt sets in,鈥 says DeRobertis. So instead of reaching for these fattening fixes, Skover suggests trying a warm bath, a foot massage, or just enveloping yourself in soft, cozy clothing for instant calming.

Anytime the coffee shop or a soda machine calls your name, you鈥檙e likely more than just thirsty. 鈥淵ou may feel discouraged or dissatisfied with your job and reach for these 鈥榪uick fixes鈥 to perk you up and get you through the day,鈥 Skover says.

It could also mean you鈥檙e dehydrated. 鈥淣ot drinking enough water leads to a lack of energy,鈥 says DeRobertis. So instead of a latte, you may just need some H2O. 鈥淧icture a wilted plant that needs water,鈥 DeRobertis says. 鈥淪hortly after you water it, it will perk back up. With people, it鈥檚 the same thing!鈥

While cravings for pasta, bread, and other carbohydrates can come from a number of physiological reasons, including a high insulin level or low blood sugar, DeRobertis says it鈥檚 more likely that you鈥檙e depriving yourself. 鈥淭ypically, when someone is on a strict eating plan or has declared certain foods 鈥榦ff-limits,鈥 they will want them that much more.鈥

So remember that all foods鈥攊n moderation鈥攆it into a healthy eating plan, and you鈥檒l be less likely to need to overindulge in them to feel like you are letting loose or doing something fun, DeRobertis says. And having a good time or rewarding yourself doesn鈥檛 have to come in the form of food: 鈥淐lear your schedule and go on a weekend trip by yourself or with friends. Don鈥檛 bring a watch and don鈥檛 be on a schedule; just get into the day and enjoy it,鈥 advises Skover.

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