“I’m craving …!” – Almost all of us know this feeling of craving something sometimes. 

Well-known are those times in which women experience strong cravings – during their period or when being pregnant. Men experience such cravings likewise, for example when feeling stressed. Cravings are unique – one person can crave things another one would never even think about. 

Cravings are intense urges or abnormal desires – mostly to consume something like unhealthy food. Those urges and desires can feel difficult and almost uncontrollable. 

To control your cravings, it is helpful to understand where they might be coming from in the first place. 

What causes cravings? 

Cravings are expectations – based on an underlying psychological process, according to research. Let’s take the following example many people can relate to: 

You are sitting in front of the TV. Feels like something is missing. Maybe a glass of wine and a snack, some crisps or chocolate? 

Many people associate this situation with consumption. In the subconscious mind an expectation is created: Whenever you are sitting in front of the TV, there needs to be a drink and a snack. Every time you find yourself in a similar situation, your brain tells you to meet the expectation or else you would not enjoy yourself as much. 

Cravings for food can get triggered in different situations: When you are going through hormonal imbalances or a suboptimal diet for example, when your stress levels are high or when experiencing a lack of sleep. Also, outside influences can make you crave for certain foods: troubles in your relationship, having to attend an uncomfortable event, a fight with your boss… 

Here’s the good news: Certain strategies can help to reduce cravings. Try these three ways to control them: 

1 Distract yourself.   

Food cravings usually last for 20 minutes. Instead of giving in to them, shift your thoughts onto something else: play a game on your phone, solve a crossword puzzle, go for a walk, talk to a friend… Chewing a sugarless gum can be useful. If your cravings get triggered by passing by a bakery or pizzeria, choose a different path. You are in control. 

2 Practice self-care.

Sometimes you start craving because you are thirsty. Make sure to drink a big glass of water when it starts happening. Minimize your stress levels and live a more mindful life – plan, meditate and slow down as much as possible. Very important to get enough sleep. When your body gets everything it needs, cravings are unlikely to occur. You are in control. 

3. Accept and find a balance.

Cravings are transient. If the above-mentioned ways to gain control over your cravings fail, practice acceptance. It is okay to crave sometimes – you don’t need to escape. Acknowledge your cravings instead of fighting them at all costs. Following an overall healthy diet and including small portions of what you are usually craving will keep your cravings under control. A small piece of chocolate here and there is much better than a whole bar at once. You are in control. 

Not every strategy works for everyone equally well – you need to experiment and see what works best for you to control your cravings. 

By the way, cravings are not necessarily food related. We can also crave things like attention, new experiences or an adrenaline rush, a cigarette or sex for example. 

Why is it important to control cravings? 

Cravings can get uncomfortable and distractive, they can contribute to feeling overwhelmed, being overweight or even developing an (eating) disorder. 

If you struggle with intense cravings and/or wish to find out about underlying causes, get in touch. Working on the psychological side of (eating) habits in counseling/therapy can help you to control your cravings. 

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Franziska Richter is a transcultural counsellor with Willingness Team, offering counselling sessions to individuals and couples. She is particularly interested in sexuality, relationship issues, trauma, and general mental health.