why do we have cravings? part two

(*This is Part Two of a two-part blog post. Click here to read Part One.)

This has been a crazy week — we moved!

I love the purging and letting go as we sort through our belonging and decide what we want to bring with us to our new home. I love re-discovering long-forgotten items that got buried in a back of a closet. I love using these well-loved items to create a new home.

But it is also stressful and just a lot of work!! Too many late nights plus lots of physical labor and emotional stress = exhaustion.

And for me that equals CRAVINGS!

Many times this last weekend, I really wanted quick energy in the form of chocolate, sugar, and caffeine! And occasionally I totally gave myself to permission to go with it and just enjoy that needed boost — even though it usually came with a cost!

Do you know what I mean?

When we’re stressed out, tired, or experiencing any kind of strong, powerful emotion — that is when cravings tend to be the strongest — or at least that’s been my personal experience!!

Last week I talked about some of the physical reasons we may experience cravings (lack of sleep being one of them!)

This week I want to talk a little bit more about some of the psychological basis for our cravings.

What do our thoughts have to do with cravings?

Thoughts, conscious & unconscious, are the basis for everything we experience in our bodies. Circumstances happen in our lives and we have thoughts about that circumstance means to us.

Like with my move, I told myself while it was exciting and wonderful, it was also stressful and exhausting — and that I needed some quick energy to get through all the hard work in a timely fashion. So those “expansive” foods were really appealing and called loudly!

Once we have looked at some of the physical reasons we may be experiencing cravings, it is important that we also step back and examine the “story” we are telling ourselves about food that is creating those powerful urges. “Chocolate will make everything feel better.” “I HAVE to get all of this done today and the only way that will happen is with caffeine.”

These types of thoughts are tied to the “EMOTION” of hunger, rather than simply the “SENSATION"of hunger. The sensation of hunger starts in our body (sometimes our belly, sometimes elsewhere) and moves to our brain where we register the signal that the body sent to us. The emotion of hunger starts in our brain with a thought or a feeling, and then moves through our body, sometimes then signaling the sensation of hunger.

Three reasons we may experience the “emotion” of hunger:

  • Dopamine Hit! — Just like for me this weekend, we want a quick boost of energy! We are tired (or depressed or stressed out or sad) and we just want the dopamine release that comes when we eat certain comfort foods.
  • Habit and Routine — Many times we crave foods at certain times of day simply because it is part of our routine. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells you when you are hungry and need to eat. However, ghrelin tends to operate on an internal body block and is programmed by our habits to be released at certain times. So if you usually eat when you get home from running errands, then you will feel hungry around that time. It can take some time and conscious effort to re-program those signals so ghrelin is not released when you don’t need it.
  • Buffering — This one is huge! Life is HARD and so much of the time we just want to escape the discomfort! Our lower brain craves ease, pleasure, and energy conservation. So when we are stretching ourselves and doing hard things, our brain naturally wants to run away and go back to what is easy and simple. And food can be one of the simplest ways to comfort ourselves and avoid all the hard feelings we don’t want to experience.

Now what?
So what do we do with these cravings now that we have a better understanding of why they happen? Read more about that in a post I wrote a few months ago.

What help learning what to do about your cravings? Do you wish you had someone to guide you through the process of exploring your cravings and learning how to lean into them so they lose some of their power over you? If so, I’d love to talk! Working with me as your body wisdom coach may be the perfect way to start that journey.