Woman with food cravings

10 Reasons Why You Are Having Food Cravings

I am a recovering sugar addict.

I never realized that I was addicted to sugar until a few years ago. But when I look back at my patterns, it was clear that I was. Sugar was never kept in my house much growing up, which lead me to view it as a treat. This caused me to view sugar as a forbidden reward – and to turn to sugar in certain situations. In university (college) when I was stressed, I turned to sour candies.

During this time of my life, I was also sleep deprived and not always the most physically active. It’s not surprising that I gained the freshman fifteen. I wasn’t paying attention to what body really needed, and wasn’t working with it as well as I could be. How ironic that this all happened while I was studying nutrition in university.

Does any of this sound familiar? Does this happen to you or someone you know? In order to overcome your cravings, you have to understand your triggers first.

I’ve listed 10 culprits below that could be reasons for your sugar addiction.

  1. You aren’t eating enough/your food isn’t balanced during the day.
    When I was away at university, I would eat cereal or a bagel in my room and then rush off to the class or the library. I would have a small veggie sandwich for lunch and then be STARVING by the time dinner came around and pig out at Mongolian Grill. I wasn’t eating enough during the day and wasn’t balancing my food properly. I needed to up the protein at breakfast and lunch, decrease the carbs, add more veggies and add a snack in between my meals. My blood sugar was skyrocketing after breakfast and lunch and then crashing 1 hour later. No wonder I having sugar cravings – I needed more energy which would come from more a balanced and frequent eating pattern.
  2. You aren’t listening to your body.
    Sugar is the quickest form of energy, so when we are lacking energy, it makes sense that we crave it, even if we’re not hungry. However, a craving may indicate that we need to give our body something other than the sugar it is craving. When I was in school, my body was suffering from all of the factors listed below, which heightened my cravings.
    1. Make sure you ask yourself:
      1. Are you tired?When we are tired our body has a very hard time dealing with cravings. Our appetite-suppressing hormones go completely out of whack, causing intense carb, fat and sugar cravings.
      2. Are you craving physical activity?Low physical activity can affect the body’s release of hormones and chemical messenger that may increase food cravings.
      3. Are you stressed?Stress raises your stress hormone cortisol, which in turn causes your appetite craving hormones to skyrocket.
  3. You are thirsty.
    Sometimes dehydration can disguise itself as hunger. We have become so dehydrated as a society, that we cannot distinguish thirst from hunger anymore. Drink a glass of water, wait 20 minutes, then see if you are still hungry. Are you? Probably not.What is dehydration and how to avoid it
  4. Your environment isn’t working for you.
    Our environment is ‘obesogenic’ – which means that we live in an environment that prompts weight gain and is one that is not conducive to weight loss. Environmental prompts are often subtle, yet their influence on our behaviors can be powerful. There are many small renovations that you can do to ‘craving-proof’ your immediate environment, that makes controlling your cravings much easier. One example is changing the size of your plates and glasses to be the size of your grandparent's plates and glasses – you may be surprised how much these items have grown through the years!
  5. You are confusing heart hunger for stomach hunger.
    Are you eating because you are stressed/bored/tired/lonely/upset, etc? Certain foods can be viewed as comfort or pleasure when we are feeling different emotions. We turn to these foods to nurture our unpleasant feelings. However, how do we feel after we’ve eaten these foods? We still have those same uncomfortable feelings, and now we are also frustrated and guilty about our eating. I know for myself, I used to be a real stress eater. I still do have cravings for sugar when I’m stressed work, but I realized that these cravings usually happen when I haven’t had a break. Simply getting up from my desk and removing myself from my work environment has helped me work with these cravings.Types of Hunger: Learning to Understand Them
  6. You are confusing mouth hunger for stomach hunger.
    Do you eat because you are looking for something with a certain taste, texture or smell? You’re craving the pleasure of food. Food scientists are working tirelessly to make sure food products appeal to our pleasure senses. Want to learn more?Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Usby Micheal Moss is a great read.
  7. You are multi-tasking/rushing too much.
    If you hardly have time in your day to eat and often eating while driving to work, in front of your computer/TV, then you are likely mindlessly eating. Slim down by slowing down! Learn to savor each bite. Mindful eating can be challenging, as our society is so fast pace. If you practice eating at a table, without distractions or multi-tasking, you could reduce how much you eat by 30%! This is because you will realize you are full sooner and will be paying attention to everything you put in your mouth. Mindful eating is something that I’ve been practicing and am slowly mastering.
  8. You are restricting your diet.
    Very restrictive or low-calorie diets cause semi-starvation, which can affect you physically and mentally. You may become irritable, have decreased concentration and think excessively about food. For some people, very strict diets can lead to binge eating. Make sure you don’t eat less than 1200 calories a day.IIFYM Macros Calculator Pie Chart
  9. You are not eating every 4 hours.
    Going too long without eating makes it hard to control your appetite and can affect your blood sugar level. A lower blood sugar can trigger a powerful urge to eat. I.e. don’t skip snacks!! Check out this blog postfor healthy weight-controlling snack ideas.
  10. A circumstance/person/place is your trigger.
    You may notice that when you are with certain people, in particular situations, or when specific events occur, you are more likely to eat in a way that is problematic. Sometimes these circumstances can also lead to difficult feelings such as anxiety, anger or boredom, which in turn can trigger eating.Need help identifying why you are having your cravings? Don’t hesitate tocontact me! I’ve helped many of my clients learn about the triggers for their cravings and develop strategies to manage them.


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AboutNicole Osinga

Nicole Osinga is a Registered Dietitian with the College of Dietitians of Ontario and holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Guelph. She is located just outside of Toronto, Ontario in the Durham Region. She brings a fresh and evidenced-based perspective, while working towards practical nutrition solutions with her clients.

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