What Your Cravings Can Actually Mean

by Isadora Baum, CHC

If you're craving chocolate like crazy, and it's not going away, it could actually be related to something else going on. Luckily, there's a way to know what your cravings mean in relation to hormones, simply by taking note of the types of foods you're munching on (chocolate is just one of the many things you might be drooling over).

As a certified health coach, I work with clients on staying in tune with their bodies and hormones, as when one thing is off, it can certainly affect a bunch of other areas. This type of feedback loop can be pretty hard to escape from (I mean who wants to give up that bacon burger or salty truffle fries, right?). So, if you notice some weird craving swings, it's best to try and figure out early on what the real root of the problem is. If you can quickly address it and satisfy another need (perhaps one unrelated to food), you might notice those cravings to subside. That's the goal. Here's how to know what your cravings mean about your emotions and physical state, based on their individual aspects. And no, you don't need to give up those foods forever; just when you eat them, you'll feel more in control of what you're doing.

1. Period Cravings

According to Liz Weinandy, who's a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, over email with Bustle, you might crave carbs, and more food in general, really, at that time of the month. When you have your period, your metabolism slightly speeds up, so the increase in appetite and carb craving follows suit.

2. Pregnancy Cravings

Weinandy says that it's common to experience chocolate and salty cravings when you're pregnant, so that desire for a plate of fries or a chocolate bar is actually pretty normal. The ice cream and pickle combination I guess makes sense, even though it's a bit more extreme (and sounds gross).

3. Carbohydrate Cravings

According to Elizabeth Ann Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, carb cravings can come when you're not getting a balanced meal of fats, protein, and complex carbs. "I often look at overall diet quality and nutrient density. When you fill your body with only one food group, be it carbohydrates, you aren't getting the satiety factor from healthy proteins and fat. The hormone insulin becomes unbalanced and you begin to crave more simple carbs to give you the energy your body needs," Shaw explains.

4. Fatty Food Cravings

If you're getting high-fat, high-sugar cravings, it might be related to sleep deficit, says Kristen Johnson Brogan, Chief Nutrition Officer at On Target Living, to Bustle. "Ghrelin is a 'hunger hormone.' When ghrelin levels are high it makes us crave food--especially high-fat, high-sugar food," Brogan says. "When we get enough sleep our 'satiety hormone' comes out to play allowing us to feel more satisfied and eat less. When we don’t get enough sleep, we release high levels of ghrelin which can make it hard to stay satisfied and lose weight," Brogan adds.

5. Sweet Cravings

Here's the thing: Sweet cravings can be linked to two things, emotional eating or stress and eating too many sweets in itself. Because sweets act as a reward, it's what you might turn to in times of need, like when you're sad or anxious AF. What's more, if your diet consists too heavily of sweets, and less of protein, you're more likely to get hungrier and crave even more sugary foods. If you're eating a sweet, pair it with a protein to balance out any hormonal swings.

These cravings are pretty common and normal, but they can lead to overeating and feeling out of control. To get a grip, figure out what's really happening and find a healthier outlet to cope, like exercise or a phone call with a friend. Or, if it's your period, just know what's coming and be prepared.