Why can’t I stop eating Chocolate?

Understanding your food Cravings (part 1)


I am asked all the time about food cravings. Over the next month, I am doing a series of talks on Understand Your Cravings, so I thought I would share with you some of interesting information I will be covering. There is so much valuable content in this series, so have broken it down into relevant topics and bite size pieces, haha!

Has this happened to you? Your sitting at your computer totally absorbed in your project, when out of nowhere, something hits your brain like a Mack truck: chips, YOU DON’T EAT chips? At first you get a picture of them, yes Chips, and then you start to smell them. Are you with me on this? And then next moment, you start to salver like Pavlov’s dog then a strong feeling comes over you that totally consumers your brain! If you don’t get chips now, you might die or hurt someone, well at the least a severe  mood change comes over you. The first thought is OH NO! I’m on a diet!  So you go on fighting these cravings it for about 10 minutes or so?… Sound familiar?

Well your not alone, food cravings are very common: surveys  estimate that almost 100% of young women and nearly 70% of young men report having experienced cravings. 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.

So why is it so hard for us to STOP devouring the whole block of chocolate or the entire packet of Doritos? Even though we want so badly, ‘not to’ too. There are multiple factors that contribute to why we get certain cravings. By knowing what our individual triggers are, we can be well equipped to understand and over time eliminate them.

What are Cravings?

A food craving is an intense desire to consume a specific food, stronger than normal, regular hunger. Cravings are both behavioural and biochemical. Where as hunger is felt in the stomach, cravings are felt in the head. You can be stuffed in the stomach, but still have cravings for food in the head. Have you ever eaten a full meal and felt stuffed, but still had an unrelenting urge to have desserts? That’s a craving. What about when you, just eat because you are bored, or lonely? That’s also a craving.

The main causes of food cravings are surrounded by these 4 main factors:

  1. Physiological factors – Body
  2. Psychological factors – Mind
  3. Emotional factors – Second brain
  4. Lifestyle factors – Behavioural

And for some of us it could be a combination of all these factors.

Physiological: The body talk.

The Physiological factors believed to be responsible for many food cravings include:

Our body is lacking certain nutrients, low blood sugar levels, therefore our energy stores are becoming depleted and our body is trying to fix this by craving carbohydrates.               Low levels of serotonin, (a hormone responsible for feelings of pleasure and relaxation).    Our body simply wants a particular food taste, texture, aroma or temperature.                      Or responding to sensory triggers, like smells and visual cues.

Psychological: It is all in our head.

In addition to physiological factors causing cravings, there are also a number of psychological factors including: Constantly thinking about foods that we totally deprive ourselves of or label ‘off limits’ and BAD. Some diets that severely reduce kilojoules or calories and totally forbid some types of food can lead to some of these causes to occur, such as constantly thinking about prohibited foods. Our mind responds to mental triggers such as fast food advertising on TV, magazines and social groups. Here is a great study by Flinders University, Australia. They found some studies suggesting that the mental imagery of food (the vivid images we get when we crave) hold the key.

Emotional: The Gut feelings.

Food cravings often stem from undernourished needs for love, fun and excitement.

Researchers have found that the gut can function like a second brain influencing the nervous system and behavior. The gut has a mind of its own, the “Enteric Nervous System” (ENS)

Emotional issues connected to food cravings usually fall into one of these categories:

  • Stress, tension, anxiety, fear or impatience.
  • Depression or feeling blue.
  • Feeling tired, having low energy levels.
  • Lack of fun, play, excitement, or recreation; or too much work and not enough play.
  • A desire for love, selection, appreciation, romance or sexual satisfaction.
  • Anger, resentment, bitterness or frustration.
  • Emptiness, insecurity or a desire for comfort.

In the amazing book “Constant Craving A-Z”, by Doreen Virtue, PhD.  Talks about..


These  “FATS feelings” are the primary triggers for emotional overeating.                            Four emotions form the core of emotional overeating: (fear, anger, tension and shame) (FATS). Fear is the root emotion in the FATS feelings. Anger, tension and shame are all extensions of fear. We feel angry because we fear losing love in the form of something or someone valuable to us; we feel tension because we are afraid of trusting or because we’ve walked away from our Divine path; we feel shame because we fear we are inadequate.

  • FEAR: Insecurity, walking on eggshells, generalised fears, abandonment fears, existential fears, control issues, sexual fears, worry, anxiety, depression, intimacy fears.
  • ANGER: At another person, toward an injustice, toward self, feeling betrayed, feeling ripped off, feeling abused.
  • TENSION: Stress, frustration, old anger turned into bitterness, old anger turned into resentment, jealousy, impatience, overworked without an emotional release such as fun.
  • SHAME: Self-blame, low self-esteem, self-loathing, lack of trust in one’s own competence or goodness, assuming other people won’t like you, feeling like you don’t deserve good things.

Lifestyle: Behavioural

As well as physical, emotional and mental causes of cravings, there are also many lifestyle factors that can contribute to these feelings, including:

Habits like eating dessert after dinner even when you are full.Standing in front of the fridge with the door open waiting for something yummy to jump out. Eating large popcorn, ice cream and a coke at the movies. When I was a kipper (child) we were not allowed to leave the table until our plates were clean. Which created a habit to eat even thought I was full. Having an after dinner, glass or 3 of wine or beer every night.

Cultural and social aspects – because of their culture, many people have strong expectations to have certain foods at certain times and places. Socially when you go to a party you feel rude if you declined any offerings of food and say “no thank you”.

Unconscious Eating – like in front of the TV, computer, chatting on the phone or eating while driving the car. Skipping meals so you can loss weight. Not eating certain foods you love and labeling them as forbidden foods. These are just a few of our Life style factors.

When we understand the culprits behind our food cravings, you can help control them.

Remember, don’t be a slave to the foods you crave!

In my next blog I look forward to sharing with you some useful tips to help understand your cravings, and ways to conquer them.


“Constant Craving A-Z”, by Doreen Virtue, PhD.
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