April 23, 2024

Constant Cravings: Understanding and Defeating the Constant Urge to Eat

The Qilo Team avatar
The Qilo Team
Coach Bimpe avatar
Medically reviewed BY
Coach Bimpe
Constant Cravings: Understanding and Defeating the Constant Urge to Eat thumbnail

The relentless rumble in your stomach. The persistent thought of that decadent chocolate cake. The constant urge to reach for something, anything, to eat. We've all been there – in the grip of constant cravings. Many of us have experienced the sensation of constant cravings, which often lead to overeating and an increased struggle to maintain a healthy diet. These cravings not only impact our physical health but can also have psychological effects, causing guilt and frustration. While some cravings are fleeting desires, others can become a persistent force, disrupting our best efforts towards healthy eating and weight management.

In this article, we will explore the science behind food cravings, understand the reasons why we experience constant cravings, and provide strategies to manage and overcome them. But before we dive into strategies to manage cravings, let's first understand what's driving this primal urge.

Food Cravings vs. Actual Hunger: Understanding the Signals

It's crucial to differentiate between food cravings and actual hunger. Hunger is a biological response, triggered by our body's need for energy. It typically comes on gradually, presenting with physical cues like stomach growling, fatigue, and slight shakiness. Hunger pangs often disappear after a balanced meal.

Cravings, on the other hand, are often more emotional or psychological. They tend to be intense and specific, directing us towards a particular food or type of food (think: that specific brand of chips or a towering ice cream sundae). Cravings can even arise when we're not physically hungry.

Here's a table summarizing the key differences:

Differentiating Between Actual Hunger and Cravings

One of the key challenges in managing constant cravings is differentiating between genuine hunger and cravings driven by non-physiological factors. Actual hunger is typically characterized by physical symptoms such as growling stomach or low energy levels. Cravings, on the other hand, tend to be more mentally driven, with a specific desire for certain foods. Learning to identify and understand these differences can help in managing cravings effectively.

Listening to your body's hunger and fullness cues is crucial in differentiating between hunger and cravings. Mindful eating, where one pays attention to the body's signals and eats with intention, can be a powerful tool in this process. By eating slowly, savoring each bite, and pausing to assess your level of fullness, you can become more attuned to your body's actual needs.

The Science Behind Cravings: Why Do We Crave?

The exact triggers of cravings are complex and involve a confluence of factors:

  • Blood Sugar Fluctuations: Dips in blood sugar levels can trigger cravings for sugary or high-carbohydrate foods, which provide a quick energy boost.
  • Hormones: Fluctuations in hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and leptin can influence cravings, especially during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause. Research suggests that certain hormones, such as ghrelin also play a role in the development of food cravings. Ghrelin, often referred to as the "hunger hormone," increases appetite, while leptin, known as the "satiety hormone," helps regulate hunger and fullness. Imbalances in these hormones can lead to an increased tendency for cravings and overeating.
  • Neurotransmitters: Neurotransmitters like dopamine, which play a role in the reward system, can be triggered by certain foods, leading to cravings. Consuming those foods releases dopamine, creating a positive reinforcement loop.
  • Stress: The stress hormone cortisol can increase appetite and cravings for high-calorie, high-fat foods.
  • Emotional Eating: We often use food to cope with negative emotions like sadness, boredom, or anxiety. Certain foods become associated with comfort and can be craved during emotional distress.
  • Memories and Associations: Positive memories associated with specific foods can trigger cravings. The smell of freshly baked cookies might evoke childhood memories and a strong urge for them.

Psychological Factors Impacting Food Cravings

Food cravings are often rooted in psychological factors. Emotional states, such as stress, anxiety, and sadness, can trigger cravings for comfort foods high in sugar and fat. The association between certain foods and positive emotions creates a reward system in the brain, reinforcing the desire for these foods even when not physically hungry.

Additionally, learned behaviors and habits play a significant role in food cravings. If an individual frequently indulges in unhealthy foods as a means of coping with emotions or stress, this pattern can become deeply ingrained. Over time, the brain creates neural pathways that associate specific foods with comfort, leading to habitual cravings.

Sociocultural factors can also contribute to food cravings. Our surroundings, including our social circles and the availability of food, can influence our cravings. For example, being in the presence of others who are eating can trigger a desire for food, even when not physically hungry. Similarly, exposure to advertisements or visual cues can create cravings for specific food items.

Beyond Food: The Underlying Needs Behind Cravings

While the desire for specific foods might be at the forefront of our minds, cravings can sometimes mask deeper needs. Here's how to understand the underlying message:

  • Need for Energy: Cravings for sugary or high-carbohydrate foods might indicate a lack of energy due to insufficient sleep, dehydration, or inadequate calorie intake.
  • Need for Comfort: Cravings for comfort foods might be a way of self-soothing during emotional distress.
  • Need for Connection: Cravings for social foods like pizza or popcorn could represent a desire for social interaction or connection.
A lady craving junk

Breaking the Cycle: Strategies to Manage Cravings

While overcoming constant cravings may seem challenging, various strategies can be employed to regain control over one's eating habits. So, what can you do when those relentless cravings hit? Here are some practical strategies to manage them:

1. Identify Your Triggers:
  • Track your cravings: Keeping a food journal can help you identify patterns and triggers. Note down what you craved, when, how you were feeling emotionally, and what you ate beforehand.
  • Recognize Emotional Eating: Are you reaching for food when stressed, bored, or sad? Develop healthy coping mechanisms for emotional distress, such as exercise, journaling, or talking to a friend.
2. Address Underlying Needs:
  • Prioritize Sleep: Getting enough sleep (7-8 hours per night) can help regulate hormones and reduce cravings.
  • Manage Stress: Practice stress-reduction techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing to help manage stress hormones and reduce cravings.
  • Stay Hydrated: Dehydration can sometimes be misinterpreted as hunger. Aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Fuel Your Body: Eating regular, balanced meals can help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce cravings.
3. Implement Healthy Eating Habits:
  • Create a balanced diet: Incorporating a well-balanced diet that includes all essential nutrients can help reduce cravings. A diet rich in fiber, lean proteins, and healthy fats helps stabilize blood sugar levels and keeps you feeling satiated for longer periods, reducing the likelihood of cravings.
  • Eat Mindfully: Pay attention to your body's hunger and fullness cues. Eat slowly and savor your food, stopping when you're comfortably full.
  • Choose Nutrient-Dense Foods: Focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. These foods provide sustained energy and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
  • Limit Added Sugars and Refined Carbs: These foods can lead to blood sugar spikes and crashes, contributing to cravings. Opt for naturally occurring sugars in fruits and complex carbohydrates like whole grains.
  • Plan Your Meals and Snacks: Preparing healthy snacks and meals in advance can help you avoid unhealthy choices when cravings strike.
  • Don't Deprive Yourself: Restrictive diets can backfire, making cravings stronger. Allow yourself occasional treats in moderation to avoid feeling deprived.
4. Manage Cravings in the Moment:
  • Distract Yourself: When a craving hits, distract yourself with a different activity like taking a walk, listening to music, or calling a friend.
  • Drink Water: Often, thirst can be mistaken for hunger. Drink a glass of water and wait 10-15 minutes to see if the craving subsides.
  • Choose Healthy Alternatives: If you crave something sweet, reach for a piece of fruit or a small square of dark chocolate. If you crave salty snacks, try nuts or air-popped popcorn.
  • Practice Relaxation Techniques: Take a few deep breaths, practice mindfulness meditation, or engage in progressive muscle relaxation to help manage cravings triggered by stress or anxiety.
5. Build a support network:

Surrounding yourself with individuals who share similar health goals can provide motivation and encouragement to overcome constant cravings. By seeking support from friends, family, or even joining support groups or online communities, you can find invaluable assistance on your journey.

6. Seek Professional Help:

If you find yourself constantly battling cravings, impacting your daily life, or struggling with emotional eating, consider seeking professional help. A registered dietitian can help you develop a personalized eating plan to address nutritional needs and manage cravings. A therapist can guide on coping mechanisms for emotional eating and developing healthy relationships with food.

Cravings and Specific Conditions:

Certain medical conditions can also contribute to cravings. Here's a brief overview:

  • Pregnant Women: Hormonal changes during pregnancy can trigger specific cravings. Consult a healthcare professional for guidance on managing cravings during pregnancy.
  • Diabetes: People with diabetes may experience cravings due to blood sugar fluctuations. Proper management of diabetes is crucial to control cravings.
  • Thyroid Issues: An underactive thyroid can lead to fatigue and decreased metabolism, potentially contributing to cravings for high-calorie foods.


Constant cravings can be a frustrating and disruptive experience. However, understanding the triggers and implementing strategies to manage them can empower you to regain control of your eating habits. By addressing both the physical and emotional aspects of cravings, you can develop a healthy relationship with food and achieve a balanced, sustainable lifestyle. Remember, consistency is key. Be patient with yourself, celebrate your successes, and don't be discouraged by setbacks. With dedication and the right tools, you can break the cycle of constant cravings and create a healthier, happier you.

Your healthiest weight
awaits you

Achieve a metabolic reset and shed extra weight using our science-based weight care plans. Why stick to counting calories, when you can improve your metabolic health?

Get Started NowLeft decor