What Causes Cravings And How To Conquer Them For Good

When you’re trying to lose weight, there’s nothing more deterring (or annoying) than the cravings. In fact, overwhelming cravings play a big role in the failure of some people’s weight loss journey. Understanding just why you get those cravings might help you start squashing them, one at a time.

And to help you out with that, we’ve put this short post together. In it, we’re going to discuss what causes those intense cravings and then we’ll give you some tips to curb them any time they come up. By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to push past them with ease which will help you reach your goals quicker.

Understanding Food Cravings

There are actually a ton of different reasons why we crave the things we crave. And, just like with most other things in life, each individual person may crave different things at different times. Most of the time though, cravings happen for one of the following reasons:

Environmental Cues

When you’re crossing the street near a donut shop and the wind is blowing just right, you probably end up stopping in for a coffee and a sugary snack more often than not. If savory food is more your thing, an Italian restaurant might have the same effect.

Being aware that it’s happening is the first step to learning to avoid it.

Emotional Cues

Emotional eating is something that a lot of people do, but when it becomes a regular thing it can lead to some pretty significant weight gain. Depression, anxiety, and boredom might have you heading to the refrigerator on a regular basis, but that’s actually not even the worst culprit.

On the contrary and perhaps surprisingly, it’s happy people who eat more. In a poll of 1000 Americans, almost 90% craved comfort foods when they were happy and nearly three-quarters said that they got cravings when they wanted to celebrate something. That’s more than double the numbers who said that they craved foods when they were sad or lonely.

That said, the happy people tended to want healthier foods and the sad ones wanted things like chips, but overeating is overeating all the same.


It’s true that men and women both get cravings, but they actually crave different things – Men tend to want things like pizza, pasta, and soup while women are more likely to want cookies or ice cream. That’s probably not news to you, but the why part might be.

Men want savory things because those foods tend to remind them of the attention that they get from their wives and/or moms. Women, on the other hand, associate those same foods with a bunch of work and dread the following cleanup so they tend to reach for more convenient foods and snacks instead.

Nutritional Needs Misconceptions

You’ve probably heard someone say, at least once in your life, that since they were craving chips their body must need salt. Basically, this is just a lazy excuse so that they can eat their bag of chips without feeling too bad about themselves (because let’s be honest, who – aside from a professional athlete – is actually sweating enough to become sodium deficient? Not many people).

Humans rely more on societal, social, and environmental cues than we do instinct when it comes to food. Individual experience also plays a role – If you eat a piece of chocolate every afternoon at the office, your brain is going to notice if you run out one day. Once you start thinking about it non-stop it turns into a craving.

Now that you have an idea of why you get the cravings you do, let’s look at how you can silence them without giving into them.

Beat The Cravings

Indulge, but not too much

You’ve probably heard that if you eat just a little bit of what you’re craving, it will go away. That might work for some people sometimes, but it doesn’t work for most people a lot of the time. In fact, quite the opposite happens in most cases – If you eat sugar every day, you’re going to want more sugar every day.

You shouldn’t necessarily just cut those foods out of your diet cold turkey either (it can lead to feelings of deprivation and usually does more harm than good). Instead, eat the foods you love in small portions but eat them less often. You might find that, after a while, you’re not even craving those foods anymore.

Learn Portion Control

If you have a pizza or tub of ice cream in your freezer, what are the odds that you’re going to eat the whole thing? If they’re good, it’s probably a good idea to just keep those sorts of things out of the house altogether. Whenever a craving strikes, you can just head out and get a single serving; it’ll satisfy the craving and you’ll feel good about yourself afterward because you didn’t overeat.

Play Tricks On Yourself

If you don’t live where fast food is available and/or you live with other people who want to keep junk in the house, the tip above might not work for you. Instead, try hiding the foods that tempt you most in the back of your cupboard or refrigerator. If you can’t immediately see it, you’re less likely to reach for it.

The less you give in to your craving for whatever is hidden, the more likely you are to weaken your personal link between your environment and mindless comfort eating.

Find Substitutions

You might think that you’re dying for that piece of chocolate, but you might be surprised to find that anything sweet – like a piece of fruit or some vanilla Greek yoghourt – will satisfy your craving just as much (if not more). Apple slices and peanut butter are another good option.

If you choose to try this method, keep in mind that the craving for what you’ve convinced yourself you think you want probably won’t subside right away, but it will. Also, you need to make sure that you eat just as much of the healthy alternative as you would have whatever you originally wanted, otherwise you’ll still be hungry.

Take Up An Activity

Cravings come and go, so if you can find something else to occupy your time with, there’s a good chance it’ll be gone by the time you’re done. You could take up a new sport or just do a few jumping jacks whenever a craving hits. If sports aren’t your thing, call a friend or learn a new craft.

In order for this to work, the activity you choose needs to be at least mildly mentally stimulating. If you’re stuck somewhere, even counting to ten silently until it goes away is better than doing nothing.

Plan Ahead

Routine snacking or gorging is probably the most difficult habit to break. Knowing exactly when the craving is going to strike is only half the battle though – You need to have a plan in place for when you know that the craving is going to hit, otherwise you’re more likely to give into it.

For example, if you know that you’re going to want a bag of chips or a chocolate bar at 4 pm every day, bring some grapes or chopped veggies with you to eat instead.

Now that you’re armed with the why you can take this information and put it into action on your own weight loss journey.

What sorts of things do you do to curb cravings? What have you tried that hasn’t worked? Let us know in the comments section below.

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