Can I Outsmart or Outwit a Craving?

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • You go to a movie theatre and the smell of buttered popcorn hits you and you begin to feel the pleasure coursing through your veins as you imagine crunching your way through a large bucket.  You walk by the local pizza parlor and see someone playing with a long, luscious string of cheese that refuses to disengage from a thin, heavenly smelling piece of pizza.  Your mouth begins to water.  Or maybe you recall that glass of cold milk and those soft chewy cookies mom used to have waiting for you every day after school, that could make the worst test score or pathetic athletic performance just melt away.  The point is, we all have cravings.  According to some recent studies, women say they have them more than men, but men say they give in to them more than women do.

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    Until recently, researchers postulated that cravings could often be a sign of nutritional deficiencies, and certainly it was assumed that those crazy cravings women have during pregnancy for ice cream, could be a craving for calcium.  But there is a growing body of research that does not seem to confirm that theory.  Crave chocolate right before you menstruate?  Well women who become menopausal still crave chocolate, long after menses and PMS is gone. So maybe some other mecahnism is at play here.


    One possibility that observational studies seem to suggest is that if you crave something and you ignore the craving, it will persist and even grow stronger.  That will often lead to  binge eating, which can leave you wondering, “What just happened?”  Despite being aware of the craving and what led to this uncurbed ingestion of food, it can and often does happen again.  And recent MRI studies show that when we feel these cravings, our brains light up in ways similar to the brains of patients with addictions to alcohol and drugs, especially when they crave these products.  And similar to addicts, it may take larger and larger amounts of the food you crave, to calm or satisfy the craving.  Restricting the desired food may not be the answer. 


    One study suggests that having it during a meal, when you are not really hungry and desperate may help you to enjoy a measured amount and satisfy your desire.  Other experts recommend CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy.  Exercise can help you manage a craving, by helping to disrupt the thought pattern and by helping to boost your mood.  Chewing gum or sniffing certain floral scents or mint have helped some people to curb cravings.  If you feel a craving coming on you can also “get busy.”  Engaging with busy work can allow the craving to pass before it overwhelms you.  Do it often enough and you may successfully weaken that craving. 


    Do you struggle with cravings or have a particular craving?  How do you manage it? Or does the craving manage you?



Published On: September 23, 2012