Chew On This

I’ve been thinking, wondering, cogitating, about this lately:  Why do we crave the things we crave?  I don’t mean the science behind it (like I learned from the book “The End of Overeating”).  I’m wondering about what we are thinking in our heads, and feeling in our mouths, and yearning for in some indefinable place, that leads us to want a certain food in the moment.  What is it about THAT particular food, that draws us.

For me, most often, it’s texture.

There is something for me about bread.  And crackers.  And dry cereal.  It’s clearly a texture thing.  I want something that in my mind is “something to chew.”  Something dense, for lack of a better way to describe it.  Not like an apple – not that chewing.  Not crunchy, like chips.  But the “bite down and sink my teeth into it” chew.  I have no idea why.  But it’s clearly what I look for over and over, when I “want” something.

Sure, sometimes I crave a particular taste instead.  Like salty.  Or sweet.  Or, specially chocolate.  Or something smooth and cold it it’s hot outside.  But more often than not, it’s about that texture that I get from grains.  As I write this, I’m trying to figure out what it is.  And what words would accurately describe it.  And how I feel when I am biting down on a bagel that I don’t feel when I’m biting down on something else.  I wonder if it’s tied to gnashing my teeth, somehow, because I obviously like to do that, as evidenced by my little gum obsession and the fact that I grind my teeth when I sleep.  Maybe it’s all a stress thing?

It really doesn’t matter.  At least, I think it doesn’t matter.  I’m just speculating.  Ruminating.  But as I write this I wonder if maybe it does?  Matter, I mean.  Could there be something behind what I crave that would bring my light bulb moment?  My epiphany that would take me away from craving?  I don’t know.  And, maybe I don’t care.  But it sure is curious to me that I crave that particular bite, that texture.

What do YOU crave?  It is a certain food?  A certain flavor?  Or, like me, is it more about the texture?  Any theories on why?




Filed under cheating/overeating, emotions/emotional issues, food

73 responses to “Chew On This

  1. I think I usually crave the fatty stuff.. Or basically anything I’m not supposed to eat a lot of. I love junk food, and that’s a bit of a problem :p

  2. That’s the tune of Little Drummer Boy, isn’t it!

    Lately, I’ve been craving black licorice. I also crave chai tea–the high calorie kind with the sugar and milk added. Pumpkin pie with lots of spice in it. So I guess, sugar and spice and everything nice.

    🙂 Marion

  3. I crave chocolate and sugar. It is hard to resist, but I do my best. (Most of the time!)

  4. My cravings are all mental. I crave what something triggers me to think about. If I’m going to the grocery store, I start craving chips because that’s something I can get there and something that is never in the house. I could go on and on with examples, but that is the reality for me. My cravings are all over the place, but always tied to the thought and then the decision to redirect the thought or act on it.

    • Karen

      Interesting. I need to think about this more. But I do think probably most cravings are mental. Yes? Fortunately I usually have more willpower at the store:)

  5. Ewa

    For me the big trigger is salt. I will never overeat meals that are not salty.

    • Karen

      Sometimes I really crave salt and mostly now that sends me for cheese. I don’t have chips in the house. Or pretzels. Or any other salty snack, I think.

  6. Trying to comment, I have two answers. What I “crave” when I am hungry will vary with the moment. It might be a burger. It might be an apple. It might be a big bowl of pasta. On the other hand, what I tend to eat when I am not hungry is the same — crunchy and lightly sweet like unsweetened cereal or graham crackers. I can see the stress-relief/comfort connection with the crunch and light sweetness.

    • Karen

      Oh for sure I’m talking about the latter. The not hungry craving. Sometimes when I am hungry I really crave protein. I guess that’s my body telling me something. But I NEVER crave veggies:9

  7. Actually, I think there’s quite a bit of science on this. I’d look something up, but not right this second — if I do, I’ll share later.

    But for me, I am definitely a texture person too. I pay attention to textures of all foods. I like smooth things to be smooth (no tapioca please) and dense things to be dense without interruption (no nuts in brownies). But I do love a crunchy topping. I like the sense of eating something salty immediately followed by something sweet.

  8. Nature and nurture. We are evolutionarily created and habit driven.

  9. I am like you Karen – I crave the breads, the crackers (although I can get by without those now), the cereal.. yup, love all those for sure AND of course my cookies.. but my oh my, I love my breads!!!! Not sure it is the texture, I do know I like the chew thing vs. like people that crave ice cream. For me, it is the taste too. And the salty vs. sweet – always sweet for me! 🙂

    I don’t care as much about the whys anymore as I have figured out what works for me…

  10. I’ve pretty much mastered my craving for carbs, but I could definitely go buck wild at any time (like right now) if I allowed it. Carbs have my heart. But I shall no longer eat entire loaves of French bread…unless it’s a holiday. LOL!

  11. I joke sometimes that I wish I were a smoker, since it does seem to me that what I really crave is the part of eating that involves having something in my mouth. I’m not ready to start smoking to accomplish that, however, because that seems like frying pan -> fire. Chewy bread occupies your whole mouth, tastes good, and takes all of your focus. It is loud inside your head, dimming the roar of everything else. I’ve often wondered if that is part of why I love eating bread and cake, because shutting out the rest of the world protects me from having to cope with anything else for that small moment. I may be reading too much into it, but I have thought about what’s going on when I seek comfort in food.

    • Karen

      Very interesting about the loudness in your head. I never thought of that before. I definitely think I’m orally fixated. I used to chew my pen lids in school.

  12. I crave carbs

    Breads for sure, all breads but especially wholemeal,
    Crackers and chips too.

    I’m not that bothered about sugary things and rarely crave chocolate or candy.

    Lock away the bread though, for it is my weakness!


  13. As clique as it sounds, my cravings depend on my cycle and hormones. I crave salt right before my period but most of the time I crave chocolate. Times of stress I want ice cream. I’ve tried to break these triggers but sometimes it’s hard.

    • Karen

      I suspect there is a real basis to the hormonal craving thing. I only crave ice cream when it’s hot outside. But even then I want to chew with it, like chocolate chips or sprinkles on top.

  14. Jan

    If I understood cravings, even my own, I should win the Nobel prize in medicine. I don’t think it is all about texture or palatability, which when tied with memories and need to self-soothe –> adios eating plan.

    I believe cravings are hormonal driven and by that I mean hormones such as insulin. Stimulate insulin release, stimulate hunger. For me this means once I get off my eating plan (and combined with the extra fat cells I have) cravings will take a while to conquer. Old habits and body responses die hard.

    • Karen

      I get that because the longer I go without certain foods, the less I crave them. Bread. Crackers. Peanut butter. I wonder about the memories and food thing. I need to do some thinking back.

  15. Bread is one of my favorite things. I am picky about it, though. The more grains the better – I like chewiness. I also like it to be soft – even a bit doughy. So texture is very important but taste, too. I like pumpernickle but not sourdough.

    Crakers – not so much. I like the desne/softness of bread.

  16. Saltines with ice cold hard butter – you need a sharp knife to slice butter that cold into very thin pats and then place atop said cracker. Texture of saltine and cold creamy butter – divine.

    Also, I like grainy stuff – like natural peanut butter. If I buy that, I cannot leave it alone. Not so much with more highly and smoothly processed PB like Skippy.

    Texture can appeal to me more than taste at times!

  17. Pam

    CARBS! It’s all about the carbs for me. Cereal, cookies, bread, kettle corn. A surefire way to make me sleepy though! Stopped by from SITS.

  18. Interesting post! If I crave anything, it’s always flour-based carbohydrates. Fresh bread. Pizza. Croissants. Pancakes. You get the picture. And, unfortunately for me, I’m gluten intolerant.

    • Karen

      Oh yes.. pancakes. Me too! All that stuff. Yum. Now there are so many gluten-free options though. When my husband was trying it for a few weeks he even had some very tasty cookies.

  19. I’m a big believer in the only true craving we have is for air–everything else is just desire. (My own little distinction that helps me quiet those desires and keep them in check. Mostly.) I’ve learned that my “desires” are generally triggered by sight or environment. Cupcakes look pretty, so I want one. Then again, a bright red apple looks tasty, so I want one. Or maybe it’s, as you said, a hot day and a cool crisp apple sounds heavenly. Or it’s a hot cup of chili on a cold and blustery day. It just depends. By relabeling them all as “desires”, I remind myself to take a moment to consider the nutritional value of such and also to take stock of whether or not I have room in the calorie count for it. That usually works, too, but there are days (or even entire weekends) that don’t follow the script. 🙂

    Lord, I’m rambly.

  20. I definitely agree with you on the texture thing. Dense, chewy breads. Soft, moist cakes and cookies. Basically anything containing sugar and flour and I’m a happy girl…

  21. Roz

    Hi Karen. I usually crave salty things. Depending on the day it could be cheese, pretzels, butter…textures can be different, but the salt is the common denominator. Have a wonderful Week!!!

  22. I crave peanut butter. Is it the fat? I am not sure….

    • Karen

      I used to crave that too. Until I gave it up and don’t crave it anymore. I’ve wondered what would happen if I bought some and tried to eat it again. Might not be a good idea to try.

  23. For me it is bread. I get this picture in my head of the piece of bread and it doesn’t want to go away!

  24. I think I have shared that I, too, love bread. Especially sour dough and really good whole grain breads. I have learned to buy just one WW type that is good but not great, that way I don’t eat more than a piece at a time. I love the crunch of crackers and toast. I actually just love the crunch of lots of foods. But especially crackers and toast when they pop in your mouth. So, yep, I have a thing for texture, too.

    • Karen

      Nice to know I’m not alone. I tried less palatable breads but have yet to find one that I can have around and not over-eat. Sigh.

  25. Karen, Am pretty sure mine’s about taste rather than texture… but for me there’s also something about the process of fulfilling the craving. I like things that take ages to eat (interesting given that I’ve – on occasions – inhaled junk food without stopping for breath!). I love things like popcorn and cornchips, chocolates in pieces and packets… not stuff made of substance. Perhaps it’s the hand-to-mouth motion. Who knows….?


    • Karen

      There is very much something hand-to-mouth for me too, so I get that. I think that’s why I always loved to snack on dry cereal. I’d pour it into a cup and eat it a piece or two at a time. I wish I could eat popcorn since it is such a lot for so little calories. But it doesn’t like my dental work:(

  26. For me it’s all about flavor – although I can certainly appreciate the texture aspect of food too. Bagels are one of my many weaknesses too – there is just something about a nice squishy chewy bagel slathered in cream cheese and a fresh slice of tomato. Damn – now I am thinking about it!
    I wish we didn’t get cravings….it sure would make this dieting thing easier. Or maybe if we craved things like broccoli and carrots versus cake, we’d be OK.
    For me – sugar is the downfall. Any pastry, cake pie, candy – type of food. It’s the worst kind. I know I should kiss is ALL goodbye but if I can’t have dessert every now and again,I’m not sure life is worth living. I just need to learn to live with it less often.

  27. I agree – texture for me too! I LOVE chocolate but am not interested if it’s a thin piece! 🙂 Seriously. The other day I had a little piece of dark chocolate in my mouth and I let it melt – and man, I wanted more! It was so good. It made me think – I don’t think I’ve ever let chocolate stay in my mouth for that long before…Ugh.

    • Karen

      Now this makes me think about chocolate and what kind I’d choose and how I eat it. My favorite is candy I get once a year for Christmas. It is pretty dense. But I also enjoy M&Ms which I crack open with my teeth then eat the shell first then the chocolate. Nope, I don’t savor either.

  28. I have different cravings at different times and for different reasons. When I am feeling uncomfortable with myself and my emotions…wanting to escape, I crave crunchy things and I think it’s because the noise of chewing drowns out the voices in my head.

    Other times (and this is something relatively new…like in the past couple of years) I crave what my body actually needs. Like protein or some other nutrient. I go through times of craving dairy like cottage cheese and yogurt, or craving cabbage.

    Anyway, I think you’re on to something…keep pondering…

    • Karen

      Someone else mentioned the noise in the head thing. I’d never thought of that. I do find that if I go on a crazy carb binge I will eventually crave fruit or protein. I guess my body is telling me something:)

  29. Karen, I think the way you respond to comments definitely creates a strong sense of conversation and connection. While I follow a number of blogs, yours is the one i look forward to the most because it feels like i talking to a good friend who has been in my shoes. For me, the hardest thing is to work away from a post that sounded great in my brain but just doesn’t flow on paper. My job has gotten very demanding, so I’ve learned to let go and just post when really inspired. 🙂

    • Karen

      Thanks, Shira:) That’s why I love subscribing to blogs; I don’t need to think about when a blogger might post – up it pops:)

  30. For the most part, i think cravings are mental. I’m addicted to sugar in part because I’ve associated sweets with special occasions and being loved – but yet when i don’t eat them for a while the craving disappears. Right now I’ve been craving chicken and fish because my trainer has convinced me eating more is essential to building muscle. 🙂

  31. It’s texture for me too … makes me hungry just thinking of putting a moist piece of chocolate cake with perfect chocolate frosting in my mouth. I think that’s why caramels, taffy and tootsie rolls are such a problem for me because it’s as much about the chewing as it is the taste.

  32. I’m craving everything lately. I just had a baby two months ago and I’m breastfeeding. I feel like I’m eating everything that’s not nailed down. I may pull up the nails next. I didn’t have this problem when I was pregnant. Also, I keep losing weight. Like a pound a day. Since I gave birth, I’ve lost 60 pounds so now I’m 30 below what I was when I got pregnant. I’ve never lost weight like this before. It’s weird. Anyway, what I’ve been wanting most lately is Snickerdoodle cookies. When I get them, I eat the whole package at one time usually (Pepperidge Farm. I should buy their stock.). That aside, I usually crave sugary stuff rather than salty. I have a thing about texture too. I can’t eat lobster, or anything else slimy. The first time I had lobster, I looked like Tom Hanks in Big. I was choking and trying to scrape it off my tongue while yelling, “Ewwww!” like a five year old.

    • Karen

      Wow! I bet lots of people are envious that the weight is falling off! Love some cookies myself, but my favorites would be… hmmm… not sure. But not snickerdoodles.

  33. Glad to meet you! I’ll go check out your favorites page! And Happy SITS day!

  34. I definitely have a sweet/salty thing going on. Like, I like to start with one and then finish with the other, or eat both at the same time (kettle corn often satisfies this craving).

    Great. Now I’m hungry again and I just ate lunch!

  35. You don’t look like a yo-yo dieter! Glad to find an interesting site.

  36. I crave anything with sweetness or saltiness. I love chocolate and pretzels.

  37. Happy belated SITS day! I am a word nerd, so nice use of cogitating. 🙂 I love sweet. Super sugary sweet. Forget the rich cheesecake or double chocolate froo froo dessert, gimme some vanilla icing in a tub with a spoon and a vat of milk and I’m one happy pig. 😀

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