Cravings are confusing for all of us, when your body is telling you one thing and your mind is telling you a million other things, which do you believe?

Cravings are more likely than not a mixture of social, cultural, environmental and many many other cues rather than just a nutritional need. Think about it, if our cravings matched our nutritional needs we would be reaching for carrots and hummus during that stressful work project or a kale salad when feeling down.

Below are two common reasons for cravings that I’ve heard in my practice, what they may actually mean, and how to get through them!

Craving Quote: "I’m feeling down, I must need ice cream or pizza"

Emotional eating is a difficult beast. The reasons why we feel the need to eat during bad times is mainly due to a need for comfort or security. Your primal brain is telling you to eat something (usually high in fat and sugar) because that will activate pleasure centers in the brain and (the brain thinks) that this will solve the problem. The best way to combat emotional eating is actually to first and foremost recognize that you are feeling emotional. Labeling your emotions can be a very powerful tool in calming yourself down and looking further into your reasons behind wanting ice cream or pizza. Ask yourself, why am I sad, what do I need? If it’s a hug, a call to a friend, or even if it is pizza, let that be okay. Guilt can sometimes cause binge eating, and as we all know one or two slices of pizza will not derail your health goals, in fact, pizza is a part of a BALANCED diet.

Craving Quote: "I’m so stressed, pass the nachos and margaritas"

Stress can wreak havoc on anyone especially if you don’t recognize what is going on. Feeling stressed triggers a multitude of reactions in the body including the production of leptin. What is leptin? Leptin is a hormone that regulates of appetite and fat storage, aka it makes to hangry. Knowing this, it can be beneficial to practice mindful eating when feeling “stress hunger”. Denying yourself food is not always the answer either. Practice taking a step back and making a healthier choice for yourself, whether it’s food related or otherwise.

Outsmart a Craving

Recognize: What is going on? How am I feeling? Why am I feeling this way? What do I really need? Keeping a craving journal is an excellent way to reflect on your current situation, and you can look at past entries to gain insight. Recognizing hunger and fullness cues is also useful to practice when determining whether you have emotional cravings, stress related cravings, or actual hunger.

Walk away: Take a minute (or 30) and physically remove yourself from where you are sitting or standing, give yourself time to recognize the cravings you are having and possible reasons behind them.

Just Eat: If you are mindfully aware that you want food, whatever genre of food that may be, you can at least know that you’ve made that decision consciously and not under stress, emotion, or hormonal rule! Depending on your health goals, you may want to swap out your craving food for something more nutritious, but truly if there is a food you want/need, go right ahead and enjoy (mindfully of course)!