How to Understand and Deal with Food Cravings

5 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Healthy Weight Loss

Are you craving is a high-calorie diet buster — a food devoid of nutrients? Dieters aren’t the only ones who experience cravings for foods. But dieters, especially those who frequently go on and off diets, tend to experience cravings most often. And their cravings tend to be the strongest at the beginning of their diets.

According to a survey, 97 percent of women and 68 percent of men experience food cravings. Researchers believe that older people are generally less driven by cravings, particularly older men. The time of day also dictates food cravings — late afternoon or early evening is the prime time when cravings tend to occur. Hormones are thought to play a role as well. For example, during pregnancy and during certain times of a woman’s menstrual cycle, food cravings are quite common.

If you can’t resist your favorite foods, you’re probably responding to a craving rather than hunger. What’s the difference? A craving is based in emotions; hunger is rooted in biology. When you’re hungry, any number of foods can satisfy you, but a craving is a highly specialized, very intense desire to eat a particular food or type of food. During a craving, the desire is sometimes so strong that you may go out of your way to get it. For example, when you crave potato chips, celery sticks just won’t cut it.

How best to deal with food cravings? Nothing can stop a craving cold, and you can’t come up with a one-size-fits-all solution. Experiment with a few of the following tips to figure out what works best for you:

  • Substitute foods. For example, try a glass of lowfat chocolate milk or a Fudgsicle instead of a chocolate candy bar.

  • Use portion control. Buy smaller, single-size servings of favorite foods, such as ice cream, to satisfy the craving and quell the instinct to go overboard.

  • Give into the craving. Don’t eat around your craving in the hopes that it will go away. You’ll probably end up eating more food and calories than you would have if you simply gave in to your craving to begin with. Many people end up eating the craved food anyway after attempting to eat around it, because they still aren’t satisfied.

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