Decoding Cravings: Understanding the Messages from Our Bodies

Cravings can be our body’s way of communicating its needs to our conscious mind. Whether it’s a craving for food, sleep, water, or even sex, these signals urge us to take action. It’s as if our body is saying, “Hey, conscious being in charge of our well-being, we require energy to fulfill the tasks you’re asking of us.” And when fatigue sets in, our body and brain might plead, “We’ve been active for 20 hours now, and we desperately need a break. Can we please get some sleep?!”

Cravings can indicate various underlying factors, such as stress, dehydration, boredom, or the need for a change in state. The key lies in deciphering what our body truly requires. By honing this ability to distinguish between genuine needs and emotional triggers, we can provide ourselves with the appropriate response instead of mindlessly indulging in excessive sugar and cheese consumption when we feel bored, sad, or aroused.

It’s important to note that experiencing cravings during meal times is normal and healthy. In fact, if you’re hungry and would willingly choose a piece of fruit, that’s a sign of a genuine appetite. However, if you find yourself opting for a bar of chocolate or binging on an entire box of biscuits instead of the fruit, it may indicate a specific craving. Understanding what you crave and when you crave it can offer insights into what your body truly needs and lacks.

Sleep deprivation is a prevalent cause of food cravings in today’s society. When we don’t get enough sleep, such as waking up early with a mind full of tasks, our bodies remain active for longer, demanding additional energy. Increased physical and mental activity can increase calorie expenditure, particularly when coupled with stress. Consequently, we may feel hungrier than usual. In such situations, the allure of sugary foods becomes especially strong, as sugar provides an instant energy boost for our brain and body. Additionally, the body recognizes that fat contains over double the energy compared to carbohydrates and protein, leading to cravings for fatty foods. While our bodies are intelligent and prioritize immediate needs over long-term health, this misalignment can create a disparity between our optimal and current state of health.

Some individuals resort to food cravings to alter their emotional state. They turn to food for comfort, whether due to boredom, frustration, or the desire to avoid a challenging project. The dopamine rush from sugar or the serotonin response triggered by cheese provides a temporary distraction from the task at hand. However, using food as an emotional crutch hinders progress toward improved body composition and performance. Instead, engaging in physical activity or exercise can be a healthier solution to change our state. Going for a walk, performing lunges or squats, or dedicating time to regular exercise can help redirect our focus and manage cravings effectively.

It’s worth noting that extreme calorie deficits can also lead to intense cravings. Excessive physical activity without adequate energy intake can result in muscle loss and other complications. Individuals who adopt extremely low-calorie diets may experience intense cravings, particularly towards the end of the day or week. This can sometimes lead to binge eating episodes, where they consume a significant amount of food quickly, offsetting any weight loss progress. To lose body fat while maintaining muscle mass, it is advisable to maintain a moderate caloric deficit that doesn’t leave you feeling ravenous at the end of each day or week. This approach can help manage cravings more realistically and sustainably.

Stress is a multifaceted factor that can significantly impact our bodies. Some individuals experience reduced appetite when under stress, while others may find themselves capable of consuming large quantities of food without gaining weight.

Train as much as you can recover from. Stay active. Move your body. Go on walks and hikes. Play games and sports with family and friends. If you train too much, you’ll progress slowly, get injured frequently or have nagging overuse injuries, and your appetite will probably be a mess. If you train too little, you will have trouble retaining muscle mass, and your caloric need will slowly decrease as you age, and this often puts on a steadily increasing coat of body fat.

Master the basics (sleep, nutrition, stress, and movement) and watch your cravings decrease, your body composition change for the better, and your performance will begin to soar!