A craving is a desire that is either persistent or acute, that can vary in it’s intensity from mild to intense and in duration from short to long, and it makes you want to act in order to satisfy the desire or relieve the craving.
Sometimes cravings remain in the background. At other times the physical sensations and the thoughts and images that are so much a part of cravings are disruptive and intrusive to the point of becoming obsessive. Cravings are also comprised of the expectation that you will get relief from an uncomfortable state and achieve a more positive state (e.g., a high, feel satisfied). Cravings become habitual, such as a smoker craving a cigarette with her coffee, or an overweight woman craving a calorie-rich dessert each night with her dinner.
The craving and the behavior used to satisfy the craving are most often experienced as out of your control. But this is not altogether true. While you might not be aware of what caused the craving, there are definite cues that trigger the craving, like the cup of coffee for the smoker or the evening meal for the overweight woman or the abysmal mood state that we all suffer from time to time. Interestingly, the consumption of the craved substance itself, like the calorie-rich cake for dessert each night keeps the craving fresh enough in your memory to help elicit the craving the next time.
Withdrawal can also bring on cravings. If you are trying to lose weight and you are doing without, like when you are on a diet, you are likely to experience cravings. You may crave what you have been used to eating, like too much food or certain fattening foods or particular sweets or salty treats that you’ve excluded from your weight-loss diet.
Probably the biggest danger from having cravings is giving up on losing weight. Just because you give in to a craving, though, doesn’t mean that you’ve blown your weight-loss regimen. Like with a diet cheat, giving in to a craving can be something you think about and learn from. After giving in to a craving, giving up on losing weight usually occurs when you unrealistically expect too much of yourself, like never giving in to cravings.