Cravings: Why They Occur and What You Can Do About Them

Author: Henrik Aulbach



Lesezeit: 4 min

Who doesn't know them, the annoying cravings? They often occur in the evening, and then the desire can't be restrained anymore. Chips, gummy bears, leftovers from dinner: Anything can fall victim to cravings. Since regular cravings can have negative health effects, we present ways to deal with cravings here.

Possible Causes of Cravings

The causes of cravings can be diverse. It's often a combination of physiological, emotional, and social factors that trigger cravings. 

Often of primary importance is the blood sugar level. Our body wants to maintain a relatively stable blood sugar level to ensure a readily available energy source. Accordingly, a low blood sugar level can lead to a desire to eat, which we refer to as cravings. This is when the craving for sweets like gummy bears or unhealthy foods made with white flour, which can quickly raise blood sugar levels, becomes strong. A low blood sugar level or significant fluctuations in blood sugar levels can be a cause of cravings.

However, the matter isn't quite that simple. The following additional causes of cravings may come into play:

  • Hormonal Fluctuations: Hormones like insulin and ghrelin affect our sense of hunger. Imbalances or fluctuations can trigger cravings. By the way, insulin is linked to blood sugar levels.
  • Emotional Eating: Emotional factors like stress, loneliness, or boredom can lead to cravings. Eating can then serve as a source of comfort or solace.
  • Lack of Sleep: Lack of sleep can negatively affect hormone levels and blood sugar levels, potentially leading to cravings.
  • Nutrient Deficiencies: If the body is lacking certain nutrients, it could be a cause of cravings. The body may demand more food to address the deficiency. Consulting a doctor for a proper examination could provide insight.
  • Social and Cultural Occasions: Special occasions or influences from advertising could trigger cravings. You may notice patterns that trigger your cravings.…
  • Restrictive Eating Habits: Those who frequently go on diets or otherwise limit their diet may experience cravings as a result. Forget about diets and focus more on long-term, healthy eating habits.
  • Habits and Conditioning: Pure habit can also play a role. Do you open a bag of chips every evening on the couch? Do you snack at work?
  • Reaction to Certain Foods: People can experience cravings when consuming certain foods or addictive substances like sugar. This can "trigger" cravings.

Difference between Hunger and Cravings

Hunger and cravings are fundamentally different. Hunger signifies a natural and essential desire, whereas cravings often arise due to an issue in life or diet. The following points differentiate hunger and cravings:

  • Causes: Hunger is a physiological state triggered by a lack of nutrition and energy. The body wants to meet its nutrient needs. With cravings, emotional, social, and physiological factors come into play, generating a desire beyond actual requirements.
  • Intensity: Hunger gradually escalates and is a sustained desire. Cravings occur suddenly and involve an intense desire, akin to addiction.
  • Nature of Desire: Hunger prompts a need for diverse and varied foods. Cravings often demand high amounts of sugar, fat, or salt.
  • Reaction to Satiation: Hunger is satisfied when needs are met, gradually fading away. Cravings lead to temporary satisfaction, often accompanied by feelings of guilt.

The Harmful Effects of Binge Eating on Health

Binge eating becomes a real problem when it occurs regularly. Primarily, weight gain is usually associated with frequent binge eating episodes. The extensive and negative consequences of overweight are well known.

In addition to weight gain, unhealthy eating associated with binge eating is a problem. Processed, sugary, and fatty foods are usually on the menu.

Ultimately, metabolic disorders could arise, such as Type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance. These diseases arise from irregular and high caloric intake and unhealthy eating.

Cardiovascular diseases are also promoted. Blood pressure and cholesterol levels can rise.

Psychological stress from frequent binge eating attacks can not only limit the quality of life but also lead to eating disorders. This can lead affected individuals into a vicious cycle. Habits can form that are not far from dependence.

Energy and Mood Swings: Irregular consumption of especially sugary foods can lead to energy highs and lows that can affect your mood.

Long-term Prevention of Binge Eating

Long-term prevention of binge eating is actually not difficult. It mainly involves adopting healthy eating habits that can prevent binge eating. Regular meals are crucial to minimizing fluctuations in cravings for specific foods. If you experience late-night binge eating, your dinner may be too early. Often, one of the causes of late-night binge eating is not consuming enough during the day. The body then compensates for its needs shortly before bedtime.

An balanced diet can provide all the necessary nutrients. This can help eliminate one of the underlying causes (nutrient deficiencies) of binge eating episodes.

However, if cravings arise in between, we recommend healthy snacks. Fruits, vegetables, dates, nuts, and seeds are good alternatives. If you want to try to curb binge eating, some people have had good experiences with bitter substances against binge eating.

Here are some additional helpful tips and tricks:

  • Stay hydrated! Drinking water can help prevent binge eating tendencies.
  • Avoid diets: Weight loss should come from healthy and sustainable dietary changes, not restrictive diets.
  • Manage stress: Stress is a common cause of binge eating. Address your stress to potentially resolve binge eating issues.
  • Sleep quality: Sleep can also impact binge eating tendencies.
  • Healthy habits: Try to establish healthy habits. Conditioning (e.g., having a bag of chips every evening) can be a cause of cravings.

Conclusion: Farewell to Binge Eating!

Regular binge eating is extremely unhealthy and a burden on the entire body. Especially going to bed with a full stomach deprives your body of the opportunity to fully regenerate during sleep. Therefore, you should address the issue promptly. A visit to the doctor or a nutritionist can be helpful.

Binge Eating: Frequently Asked Questions

What is Binge Eating?

Binge eating is an unnatural craving for unhealthy foods, which often occurs, especially in the evening. In contrast to normal hunger, there is no natural desire for a balanced diet, and feelings of satiety often come with feelings of guilt.

Why Do We Experience Binge Eating?

Binge eating can have various causes. Usually, it's unhealthy eating habits that contribute to low blood sugar levels, which can in turn trigger a strong craving for sugary foods. Other common causes are stress and habit formation.

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