The Psychology of Food Cravings and Emotional Eating
Dr Peta Stapleton
Why Do We Have Food Cravings?
One important factor which may influence appetite control is the notion of food cravings (Blundell & Finlayson, 2004; Strachan, Ewing, Frier, Harper, & Daery, 2004). This overwhelming urge to consume a particular food appears strong in overweight dieters, and many theories has posited why this is so. The nutritional and homeostatic role of food cravings is described by physiological theories and explains why cravings might be more present in people who are deprived of food (Wardle, 1987).
The psychoactive abilities of certain foods to trigger cravings are likened to a self-medication behaviour and thought to relieve a central serotonin deficit (Wurtman & Wurtman, 1986). Psychological theories stress the role of negatives emotions (e.g. anger) as triggers for cravings (Rogers et al., 1994) and learning theories claim that cravings are a positive learnt response to cues (sensory, situational) and giving into a craving results in a pleasurable consequence (Rozin, Levine, & Stoess, 1991). What is evident here is that food cravings are a multi-dimensional and complex occurrence, one which possibly involves aspects of all of the proposed theories.
Whatever the reason, it is suggested that food cravings frequently lead to consumption of the craved food (Hill & Heaton-Brown, 1994) and elevated Body Mass Index (BMI) is associated with food intake and preference for high fat foods (Drewnowski et al., 1985). Even in non-clinical samples, food craving has been found to be related to body weight, suggesting the significant role of craving in food consumption (Franken & Muris, 2005).
Early identification of elevated body mass indexes (BMI), medical risks, and unhealthy eating and physical activity habits may be essential to the future prevention of obesity. One crucial question is the role food cravings may play in maintaining excessive eating patterns observed in other problems with eating behaviours: binge eating, bulimia, and obesity (Weingarten & Elston, 1990).
Food Cravings and Weight Gain: The Missing Link
There is thorough and outstanding evidence regarding the increase in worldwide rates of obesity and the projected outcomes if this is not addressed. Children in particular are noted as being especially at risk of future long term health problems.
You might also like: