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Hey everyone, it's Karen here, and I hope you're ready to talk about winter munchies this week! A challenging part of winter eating for many people is food cravings. But we're often made to feel like something is "wrong" with us because we crave certain foods. Or we're told that we simply don't have enough willpower when we give in to them.

In reality, food cravings are a normal part of the human experience, and more than 90% of people report having them (kinda makes you wonder what's up with the remaining percentage). Cravings are caused by a complex interplay of the brain’s reward center, appetite hormones, behavioral conditioning and easy access to pleasurable foods.

We instinctively feel that we should use restriction, suppression and distraction to manage cravings, but this backfires. Research supports using strategies that include accepting that food cravings are normal and inevitable, and using mindfulness techniques to acknowledge and become more aware of how and why your cravings occur. 

Those who routinely deny cravings are more likely to notice food, think about food and crave food more. This is the exact opposite of what most of us want. So what do we do? Should give in to every craving we have? Not quite.

The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to make cravings disappear, but you also don’t have to eat because of them. Cravings are information, and dealing with them from that perspective can be really helpful. When you experience a craving, it is an invitation to explore. Cravings may occur for a variety of reasons: not eating enough, not eating a balance of foods, emotions, lack of sleep, social or environmental triggers, etc. Ask yourself questions about these things to better understand your craving.

Once you start to use cravings as information, you might discover some underlying drivers of your cravings that you can address without food. But it is not the goal to never eat in response to a craving. Eating is always one of the options you have available to you, and you should never, ever feel guilty or ashamed if you conclude that you simply wish to enjoy a certain food, and do so with intention and mindfulness!