Last updated on May 9th, 2019 at 10:12 am

If you want to succeed at healthy eating (or anything whatsoever), managing your cravings and impulses is key! Without research and personal experience with food cravings, I’d still be at the mercy of them.

According to an article published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, “cravings represent strong motivational states that are characterized by intense desires typically relating to the anticipation of consuming pleasure-producing substances or engaging in hedonic behaviors.” Cravings sometimes feel unbearable. You need that chocolate bar. Or something! And a carrot definitely won’t do the trick.

Cravings can drive you up the wall – unless you know how to handle them. But how?


In order to outsmart my cravings, entering that explorative mindset when they appear, is absolutely necessary. Cravings may seem as though they appear out of the blue – but they don’t. Cravings emerge from somewhere.

I hereby present some usual categories of triggers:

  • Cellular hunger
  • Stress and emotions such as boredom
  • Mistaking other physical needs for a need for food
  • Environmental triggers (people or sensory input)

Cellular hunger relates to cravings that are specific to foods containing a specific nutrient, such as iron or other micro nutrients. The body is an intelligent system with data on which foods contain specific nutrients. Ever noticed what cravings arise when you haven’t eaten for a long time and you feel like you could eat a horse? At this point images of greasy, carbohydrate rich and energy dense dishes appear in my mind. Could be a burger and fries. This is not uncommon. Thirst is another type of cellular hunger.

Stress too can make us crave foods that are dense in calories, and various emotions can drive forth cravings for a whole range of foods and drinks.

Many years ago when I was on my first journey with my cravings, I discovered that I would eat or encounter a craving when my stomach itself wasn’t hungry. My mind and body was tired and exhausted. Consequently I learned that what I really needed was a short break or some rest and sleep.

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As a newbie to this, whenever a craving showed up, I would ask myself:

How did this craving start?
What’s going on with me?
How am I feeling?
How does my mouth feel? Mouth, are you thirsty?

Then there were those, not too few, times where I had already given in. Those mindless moments.

What happened?
Did I make a conscious decision?
Was I in autopilot?

Dissecting moments of craving or reflecting after you’ve given in, provide you with important information about your triggers. Make curiosity your new sidekick!


In this short article we’ve addressed some of the sources of craving and how identifying these triggers can help you make the right decision for yourself.

Written by Justin
Plant-based nutritionist, lifestyle coach, and mindful eating teacher based in Oslo, Norway. Contact me to book a session online or in person.