First, what is a food craving? As defined by Wikipedia, food craving is “an intense desire to consume a particular food, as opposed to food in general. Food cravings are especially common in people following structured diet plans, and often interfere with the best of intentions to adhere to a particular style of eating.”
The most common cravings are for sweet and salty, with some people mixing them, like potato chips and ice cream. But, commonly, cravings are not due to any dietary deficiencies but usually are emotionally or psychologically driven. People also crave foods they associate with pleasure or places.
What triggers a food craving? Boredom and stress are two major factors, but smell can also generate a food craving. That’s why when I smell bacon cooking, I want some! Oh, and don’t forget, hormonal changes, such as pregnancy, are high on the food-craving cause list.
If you're craving something like ice cream, go ahead, have a little and move on, recommends Bonnie Taub-Dix, national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association specializing in emotional eating problems. "If you restrict [yourself] too much, sometimes you’ll crave it even more and that will lead to binges and overeating," she says.
Speaking of restricting yourself, a recent study by Hertfordshire University authors in the journal Appetite showed that trying to deny yourself might cause you to eat more. According to the study: “Women who tried to stop thinking about chocolate ate 50 percent more than those who were encouraged to talk about their cravings.”
The funny thing is that there’s a clear difference between men and women. According to the study, “Women who had tried to suppress their cravings ate on average eight chocolates, while those who had talked freely about it ate five. Men did not show the same effect, with the group told to talk about the snack eating more.”
So, the bottom line is women, who talk about their cravings, eat less, while men, who talk less, eat more. Who knew?
Dr. James Erskine, who led the study, said that the best advice to people trying to cut down on a "sinful" food was to try not to completely avoid or think about it.
The next time you have a food craving, give into it, but just a little. Your mind will thank you for the satisfaction and your eating plan won’t mind a little change of pace. To compensate, increase your exercise for the next day. That way, you’ll be able to work off some of those extra calories.
By the way, what’s the strangest food you crave? Inquiring minds what to know. After all, it’s about a healthy lifestyle!