This Is Why Different Moods Make You Crave Certain Foods
Severe food cravings seem to strike during our most extreme moments of weakness. Whether we feel a gravitational pull toward chocolate or cheese or our favorite indulgence from childhood, we often fall prey to it before even understanding why this reaction occurred in our bodies in the first place.
The various reasoning behind the wide variety of food cravings we can experience is complex, but there is definitely a clear association between the desire to down any one particular food and our emotions. Cravings aren’t driven by hunger — they’re driven by the need to address a lack (or excess) of a particular feeling. Sometimes, we subconsciously pair particular foods with particular emotions. Other times, we subliminally draw from deep-seated memories of our past and connect specific foods with specific circumstances. But no matter way you look at it, emotion is most definitely involved.
In the land of emotional eating, there are several common combinations of food cravings and emotions. Below are a few of those connections and a potential reason as to why they hit you so hard.
Craving salty foods?
This one is often connected to feeling chronically stressed, which negatively impacts the function of your adrenal glands and leaves the body feeling like it needs to up its salt intake. However, if you adopt a healthy stress-relief practice like mindful meditation, you might notice this urge to reach for the potato chips subsides (or at least reduces in severity).
Cheese is one of those ultimate comfort foods that brings us right back to our early years. From mac ‘n’ cheese to grilled cheese sandwiches, the melty stuff just makes you feel so much warmer and more comfortable, which is why we reach for it when we feel unsteady and in need of a little familiar ground. We can crave it when we’re struggling to concentrate, too.
Craving spicy food?
If all you can think about is a hot salsa to pair with some tortilla chips, it’s possible that you’re avoiding some unresolved pain and using the burn of the spices (and the adrenaline rush they evoke) to create a sense of relief. But be aware of this tendency, because it can become an addictive behavior for some people.
You might be feeling a little low (depressed, even) and in need of a little love, intimacy or comfort. Because the body has learned over time that chocolate will lead to a release of dopamine and serotonin, both feel-good hormones in the brain, we lean into this form of self-medication during times of need.
You could be just feeling really tired and in need of a solid night’s sleep. When the body is sleep-deprived and searching for a quick source of energy to rebound with, sugar is one of the first options that come to mind. It’s that quick hit that jolts the body back into action… before the inevitable energy crash that leaves you right where you started.
This is actually just your body’s more socially acceptable way of craving sugar. After all, most simple carbs like bread and pasta quickly break down into the glucose that gives the body a quick boost of energy. But working on your sleep hygiene can help your body feel so much better and even nix the need to eat three PB&J sandwiches in one sitting.
Craving ice cream?
That yearning for sweet dairy says you’re feeling worried about something and need to be soothed. And the high-fat content of ice cream tells your body it will do exactly that. But there are plenty of healthy ways to face worrisome feelings that have nothing to do with emotional eating, like taking a warm bath, brewing a cup of hot tea or snuggling beneath a big, cozy blanket.