Cravings can be very real, and very strange. They come from seemingly nowhere. You weren’t even thinking about pizza a moment ago!

Did you see someone eating a slice earlier maybe? Was there a billboard along the side of the road that your subconscious mind picked up on? Are you falling for advertising, or do you truly have to have that pizza?

Yes, you decide. Soon, you’ll have a whole wonderful box to yourself.

We’ve all been there, and not just with pizza. Sometimes it’s chocolate. Or ice cream. Or chocolate ice cream.

But what causes our cravings, and what can we do to overcome them?

Where Do The Cravings Come From?

donuts

Cravings are still somewhat of a mystery to science. There is evidently no single cause of the craving, but a number of body functions working together to produce that singular focus, that unquestionable desire for a specific taste to grace your taste buds.

But, here are some common culprits.

Emotion

unhappy

When you’re stressed or unhappy, you may be more inclined to go for high sugar foods, which often give a temporary mood boost.

Environment

asethetics

Studies have shown that human food cravings are also affected by their surroundings. In a dimly-lit grocery store, we might be attracted to more unhealthy foods. And, depending on the music playing from the speakers overhead, we may not think twice about tossing a box of cookies into the cart.

The aesthetic appeal of the food can also stick in our memories and make them more enticing to us. A crunchy chip, a crispy crust, bright colors and packaging, can all influence us to enjoy the food more, and crave it more.

Memories

memory eating

Psychologist Marcia Pelchat of the Monell Chemical Senses Center told the Washington Post: “Think of food cravings as a sensory memory. “You remember how good it felt the last time you had that food. You have to have experienced eating it before”.

Cravings affect an area of the brain that is similarly stimulated by our desires for new clothes, experiences, and anything else that can deliver a serotonin response. The reward centers of the brain, the hippocampus, insula, and caudate, are activated by food cravings in much the same way as drug cravings.

Managing Your Cravings

manage cravings

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of Americans are obese.

Because of the obesity epidemic, a lot of work is being done by scientists to figure out how to manage cravings. This is especially important because of the nature of the food we typically crave: high calorie, high energy, and high fat.

If we do nothing to manage them, regular cravings for these foods can lead to some serious health and weight issues.

Some people have the force of will to go cold turkey and deny themselves the pleasure of satisfying their cravings, but here are some tips to make it easier.

Chew Gum

gum mouth

If you aren’t really hungry, but have the itch of craving something sweet, maybe you just need something to chew on. Gum has been shown to decrease cravings and appetite overall, and because of the wide variety of flavors and consistencies found in chewing gum, it might be the next best thing.

Choose Fruit Instead

eat fruit

You’d be shocked to find out how effectively fruit can stop a craving before it takes hold. Fruits are full of natural sugars, as well as a variety of nutrients and fiber. They’ll also leave you feeling full.

Drink Water

drink water

Like I mentioned earlier, what you think might be a craving for something you just can’t quite put your finger (or taste buds) on, might just be thirst.

If you drink an 8-ounce glass of water every time you feel that inexplicable urge, you’ll feel fuller and may successfully distract yourself from your desire for something else.

Keep a reusable bottle of water handy throughout the day and drink from it every time you think about it.

What’s your take on these tips to reduce cravings? Have anything else you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!