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Cravings: Friend or Foe?

Updated on January 31, 2012
Pumpkin Creme Brulee
Pumpkin Creme Brulee

Cravings: Friend or Foe?

What does it mean when suddenly you want anything salty or sweet? What does it mean when you feel hungry, eat something, and are still not satisfied? More importantly...what is your body trying to tell you and are you listening?

There's a history of Diabetes in my family. My dad's brother has it, a few of his sisters have it, and my dad has been struggling with it as well. This means my sisters and I are at increased risk for developing Diabetes...and with what seems like a hereditary sweet tooth, trying to fight off the cravings for sugary treats is a battle by itself. As of late, my sister especially has shown some interest in dealing with her cravings and changing her diet so she could at least reduce her risk. So here's the thing:

Your body accomodates to what you do to it, to the best of its ability. In fact, it's very efficient and is doing its job trying to process what you give it for nourishment into something it can use to function, but there's only so much it can do without your help. Your body therefore tries to communicate with you, via certain symptoms, to tell you it's in need of something. Cravings are one such symptom. When you are craving something salty, your body is generally looking for electrolytes like sodium or potassium. When you crave something sweet, your body needs glucose for energy. When you feel thirsty, it needs water. Pretty cool system, right?

Question: When your body is accustomed to having a sweet candy bar or salty potato chips for a snack between meals regularly, and it's used to getting high fat, low fiber, possibly high-sodium or potassium meals followed by high fat and/or high-in-sugar desserts...when one day you decide to skip the candy bar or don't have time for a snack, what will your body do? Crave for it. And it's not your body's fault. It's a matter of conditioning. If you ate smarter, would you crave for anything? No.

So are cravings really the problem when you're looking for a weight loss solution or just trying to eat healthier? Of course not. It's what you eat to satisfy those cravings, and even moreso, what you're eating before the cravings start that matter.

Another point: Why do you seem to get hungry so quickly after having fast food? Because your body got a boatload of calories to work with, but very little actual nutrition. As far as your body's concerned, you didn't even eat much. So the hunger starts again once the calories are used up (or saved up as fat..nudge nudge). Sometimes the feeling of hunger isn't actually hunger at all. Many times what your body is ACTUALLY saying is, "I'm thirsty". Think about it: You had your bowl of pasta, maybe some salad greens, a glass or two of wine...or you had a cheeseburger with large fries, washed down with either soda or iced tea...where's the water? Oh, you mean the half cup-worth of water that's in your drink? You think that was enough? Sometimes thirst doesn't manifest itself as dry mouth until you're seriously hydrated. So when you feel "hungry", instead of eating something, try drinking a glass of water and see if that feeling goes away. If it does, you were just thirsty! If it doesn't, then you know for sure you're hungry.

It's the general confusion and misunderstanding of what our bodies are trying to tell us that got us into this mess of being an overweight/obese country. If we really paid attention to what our bodies need and satisfied those needs first before indulging in anything else, what do you think the result would be? Would we still have cravings? Would we have such difficulty losing weight? Would we finally be healthier?

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    • dcaz profile image

      dcaz 5 years ago from Singapore

      Great hub, informative and easy to read. Love the tip about hungry versus thirsty. Will definitely try it out :)

      Voted up and useful!