Are you constantly craving a late night chocolate bar? Or counting down the hours till you can have that pint of ice cream to finish off your day? Most of us experience different levels of cravings at different times in our lives. But did you know there may be more behind the craving than you think?

It may feel like hunger, but often times, it has little to do with the absolute need for food but rather with the pleasure of eating.

Cravings can be very strong, and resistance is stressful. But giving in to the urges may quickly lead to weight gain. Doctors have limited understanding of cravings because they are such a complex, psycho-biological phenomenon. However, research has identified several contributors:

The contributors to cravings include:

  • Smoking cessation
    • Making the decision to stop smoking is an incredibly positive step for health gain, but be cautious to not replace smoking with eating. This time of withdraw is a well-known time for weight gain.
  • Sleep disorders

    • Chronic sleep deprivation can result in a substantial increase in food intake and weight gain. When an individual is sleep deprived, they are more likely to binge eat in hopes of getting an energy boost.

      A disrupted hypothalamic function can also be the cause of other cravings brought on by sleep disorders.

  • Diabetes

    • Poorly controlled or undiagnosed diabetes is associated with increased appetite and thirst.

  • Pregnancy

    • For some women, pregnancy can quickly set off food cravings; and for many of these, it may be the only time cravings are experienced.

  • Premenstrual Syndrome

    • Many women experience cravings just before a menstrual period. In fact, up to 50% of women crave chocolate or other sweets at this time. This may be due to the low serotonin activity that affects women during this phase of their cycle.

  • Hypothalamic injury

    • While rare, a hypothalamic injury may be the result of a brain injury, stroke, or other disease. The satiation and hunger centres are located in the hypothalamus and can cause impaired understanding of appetite and cravings when damaged. It remains a very rare disorder but is a useful reminder of the biological aspect of appetite and cravings.

  • Psychological causes

    • Psychological causes are more difficult to pinpoint, but nontheless can lead to strong cravings. When individuals have the mindset of ‘naughty but nice’ foods to avoid, they psychologically may become more preoccupied with fulfilling the “need” for the food as a result.

These are a few among the many other factors that can contribute to weight gain due. Learn more about weight management in my book here.