Sep 24, 2009


Whether you consider yourself to be a saltaholic, sweetaholic, carbaholic, or just love to bite down and crunch your way through the day, we’ll help you understand your urges so you’ll know when to fight them or when to give into the temptations.

Cravings are natural and experienced by almost all men and woman. Unfortunately, many people feel ashamed, guilty, or weak for not having the will power to overcome these temptations. Give yourself a break. Actually, stressing about giving into temptations or completely alleviating all cravings can cause more problems.
"Curbing cravings is not about having will power, it's about creating healthier options and planning for success. "


So when it comes to your cravings, should you avoid them like the plague or crunch with caution?

It seems like the answer should be simple, but it’s not. Giving into every craving, from potato chips and french fries to chocolate shakes, might make you turn into a cream puff; but did you know that avoiding cravings might also cause weight gain?

So what do you do? Stop trying to fight them; start gaining control over them.

If you want to conquer your cravings, you must first FEED it

Feeling- Get in touch with your true feelings. Identify what emotion is causing you to want to eat (loneliness, frustration, boredom, anger)

Evaluation- what biological or behavioral factors may be influencing your craving

Expression- what specific food (e.g. chocolate chip cookie), food category (e.g. pasta or dessert), or food texture (e.g. creamy or crunchy) best expresses your desire (craving) or emotion

Decision- determine if there is an alternative “expression” or behavior that will satisfy the need.



It’s 8 o’clock on a Wednesday night, and you’re minding your own business when that old friend comes a knockin’. Once again, you are having a late night craving.

You glance down at the clock and sigh; it’s only been an hour and a half since you finished dinner. You think to yourself, “I thought I ate enough, why am I having this craving? I guess I’m still hungry.”

Chances are the craving didn’t come from a rumbling tummy. In fact, 75% of cravings are brought about by emotions, not hunger. [1]

Regardless of whether you are a self-proclaimed saltaholic, sweetaholic, carbaholic, late night muncher, all day cruncher, or see yourself as being a see-food lover and equal opportunity eater, the root of almost all cravings comes from one of two places- the heart or head.

Here is one way of looking at how emotions from the heart and head affect our cravings:


Linda Spangle, author of Life is Hard, Food is Easy, refers to emotional eating that stems from the head or intellectual sources as being “head hunger”.

Emotions: stress, tension, anger, frustration, upcoming deadline, or feelings of being misunderstood

Common Crave: chewy or crunchy foods

Culprit: Chewy cookies or bars, M&Ms, steak or chewy meats, granola, trail mix, fried foods, chips, nuts, popcorn, crackers, french fries, hot dogs, pizza, and chocolate


Spangle refers to “heart hunger” as being a response to empty emotions

Emotions: loneliness, depression, boredom, and that feeling that something is missing

Common Crave: comforting foods

Culprit: ice cream, pasta, cinnamon rolls, cheese, eggs, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, biscuits, cake (especially cheesecake), alcohol, candy, and other foods that have a fond spot in your memory



Ever feel like you have an uncontrollable urge to eat a specific food? You may be correct! I guess you could say that you could…”Blame it on the Brain”

Your emotions and behaviors can quickly alter your body chemistry, which causes unbeatable cravings. These intense cravings can cause a vicious cycle of weight gain, negative feelings and behaviors, and more changes to your body’s hormones.

Use the following examples to determine whether there might be some behavioral and biological influences that are affecting your cravings.


Ever wonder why people who lose weight quickly seem to put it (and more) back on again. Well, here’s one factor….

Whether you are crash dieting or participating in the newest low-calorie fad diet, a drop in calories can cause a decrease in Serotonin.

Serotonin is a feel-good hormone that is released in the body after eating carbohydrates. Its purpose is to enhance calmness, improves mood, and lessens depression.

High levels of serotonin help to control appetite and satisfy cravings, but drastic drops in calorie intake decreases the serotonin and increases cravings.

A drop in serotonin can also cause negative feelings, such as: depression, anxiety, lethargy, feelings of hopelessness, or rage.


Skipping meals causes your blood sugar to drop. Since your body requires food to function, the natural defense is to increase the level of the hormone ghrelin and amount of neuropeptide Y.

An increase in ghrelin causes the body to have an irresistible urge to eat, and the decrease of neuropeptide Y increases your craving for carbohydrates.


When you eat a high fat diet your body increases the production of endorphins, which gives you the feeling of having a natural high. Unfortunately, as the amount of fat you consume rises, so does the amount of galanin. This hormone increases your desire for more fatty foods. So basically the more fat you eat, the more fat you are going to crave.

Ever wonder why when you are stressed you crave desserts (which is stressed spelled backwards!). While the fat releases endorphins and gives you the feeling of pleasure, the carbohydrates increase the serotonin and makes you feel calm and relaxed.



Sometimes the best solution is to surrender.

Let’s say you’ve got an unbreakable craving for a turtle cheesecake from the Cheesecake factory. You’ve identified the emotion that led to this craving and believe that this is one craving that will not be easily substituted for a healthier alternative, nor could any change in behavior or setting rectify this problem. As long as you don’t have any medical issues or conditions that would restrict you from acting on your desire, you may want to surrender.

Oh, before you starting waving your white flag, know that there are rules. Surrendering to your temptation does not mean turning your body into a human garbage can.

Rule #1- Determine the intensity of the craving- Answer this question honestly... if you don't eat this specific food, will the act of depriving this item lead you to binge uncontrollable on this or other food item in the near future?

If the answer is NO, take a big breath and find a healthy alternative to dealing with this craving.

Rule #2-Give a valiant effort. At least consider a healthier option before deciding to toss in the towel.

Rule #3- Limit these splurges to no more than twice (ideally once) a month or less, and keep a detailed journal of your cravings. Make sure to note when the craving occurs (time & location), what emotion is creating the craving, and what action you took (give in vs. choosing a healthy alternative).

Rule #4- Cut the portion size in half and toss the rest. Even though it might be a waste of money, having the left over portion might be too tempting.

For all other cravings (e.g. craving sweets as a general category), try substituting your initial craving for a healthier option. Oftentimes it will pacify the craving and lead to a healthier tomorrow.

For tips on healthy substitutions for common craves, click here.


Other sources include:

Do Food Cravings Reflect your feelings: