The food craving phenomenon - When greed becomes a weight trap

Food cravings

Cravings for chocolate, crips etc. can be overwhelming and are often the cause of those unloved problem zones. You simply can’t resist. You feel powerless to the ravenous appetite and give in. But what is actually behind those nasty cravings and how can you prevent yourself from giving into them?

What are food cravings?

A craving is to be distinguished from normal hunger. It is a strong, seizure-like desire for certain foods. It varies from person to person whether it is an appetite for sweet, salty or fatty foods. There are several reasons for this connected to the so-called “feel-good” hormone dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that stimulates nerve cells and is involved in information processing. Thus dopamine is responsible not only for motivation but also for regulating our appetite.

Why do we actually get food cravings?

The cause is usually our blood sugar level. But wait, weren’t we were just talking about dopamine?
Right, because blood sugar level and dopamine release are closely linked. If your blood sugar drops, you get hungry. The faster your blood sugar drops, the greater the need for an energy boost. And what gives you energy quickly? Right, sugar! It gets into your blood quickly, drives your blood sugar up, provides you with short-term energy, but otherwise has no added value for you. Your blood sugar will fall as quickly as it rose.

But while you have absorbed the sugar, your body releases more insulin. Insulin is a hormone that transports the sugar into the cells and thus supplies them with energy. The high insulin level in your blood causes the brain to release more dopamine. The result is positive sensations after eating sugar-rich food. You will find out more about this in a moment.

  • Contains quick release sugars
  • Gives you short term satisfaction
  • You are hungry again after a short time and need to replenish your energy
  • You end up eating more than your body needs
  • Contains complex carbohydrates
  • Your blood sugar levels increase gradually
  • The quark element helps keep blood sugar levels stable
  • Gives a long lasting feeling of satiety


The better breakfast is therefore quark with oats and fruit. Why not try it yourself, your body will thank you for it! Want more individuality? No problem, put together your own individual nutrition plan.

Cravings, dopamine and the psychological origin

Dopamine is composed of the words DOPA (α-amino acid) and amine (organic derivatives) and is an excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. It is produced in the nerve endings and is a precursor of norepinephrine. Due to its excitatory effect, dopamine is also known as the “happiness hormone” and is firmly rooted in psychological stimulation such as motivation and drive.

But what exactly does dopamine have to do with food cravings and the psyche? Very simple: dopamine is released to induce feelings of happiness. So if you have negative thoughts, the body sends out a signal that you have to eat food containing calories or sugar, such as chocolate, which results in an increased release of dopamine. The consumption of sugar triggers feelings of happiness in you and lessens negative feelings such as stress, anger or sadness.

However, if the triggers of these feelings continue (e.g. stress at work), your body will eventually demand more sugar. In overweight people, dopamine does not achieve the same effectiveness as in slim people. The effect is much smaller due to adaptation through habituation, so overweight people need more of a certain food to achieve the same effect.

Depression and binge eating are also closely related. Depression is caused by the body being unable to release dopamine or an inbalance in its sensitivity towards dopamine, causing negative feelings to predominate. People experiencing depression may eat more food in order to release short-term feelings of happiness. The best way to deal with cravings is not to reduce the substance you are craving but rather to do without it completely (withdrawal!). This is the best way to get the psychological trigger under control.

Food cravings aren´t always problematic

Cravings are completely normal if, for example, you have not eaten for a long time or have done a lot of sport. In these instances the body needs nutrients and needs them quickly. An increased nutrient requirement and thus increased hunger also occurs during a growth phase, pregnancy or breastfeeding. (Tip: You can easily determine your optimal nutrient requirements with the Upfit BMI calculator).

However, it is often purely out of habit that we reach for something sweet after a rich meal.

Causes of food cravings - What if there is more to it?

Food cravings and pizza

If your food cravings are recurring, they could have physical or psychological causes.


Energy and nutrient deficiency, metabolic changes or changes in hormone balance Eating to replace other needs

  • A radical diet
  • Pregnancy
  • Women during their period
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypoglycaemia due to diabetes
  • Fat metabolism disorders
  • Drugs that stimulate the appetite

  • Bulimia
  • Binge-Eating

How do I deal with food cravings resulting from an illness?

This depends on the respective illness. For example:

  • Diabetes mellitus: Strong fluctuations in blood sugar should be avoided. Depending on the type of diabetes mellitus, insulin, oral antidiabetics, a healthy diet and plenty of exercise are necessary.
  • Eating disorders: Psychotherapeutic treatment
  • Hyperthyroidism: Medication

12 tips against physically caused food cravings

Food cravings and snacks
  1. Breakfast: Start your day with a balanced breakfast, such as quark with oats and fruit
  2. Regular meals: Do not skip meals. Main meals and 2 snacks are optimal to prevent cravings (example: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner)
  3. Choose wholemeal versions of: bread, noodles, rice
  4. High-protein meals: Each meal should have a protein component. E.g. for breakfast, eggs or quark, for lunch/evening meal, chicken breast, fish or tofu
  5. Drinks: unsweetened tea, coffee and carbonated mineral water fill your stomach
  6. Brush your teeth: you won’t want to eat afterwards and have to brush your teeth again.
  7. Chew gum
  8. Distract yourself: The thought of food will fade away when you are busy doing other things like sports, meeting friends, reading
  9. Do not ban food: It is precisely those forbidden foods that you end up craving, as they become all the more seductive. Live by the motto: “I can eat anything!”
  10. Exercise: Sport not only distracts you, but also stimulates the release of dopamine
  11. Avoid stress: Stress often triggers negative feelings and tempts you to eat
  12. Get enough sleep: Those who sleep more tend to have more balanced moods, are less stressed and experience less cravings. Plus you cannot eat whilst you are asleep.

Examples of healthy snacks

  • Nuts
  • Raw vegetables with dip
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Popcorn without sugar
  • Frozen bananas
  • Rice cakes

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But what does sport have to do with ravenous appetite?

woman and man running through the woods

Since food cravings are so closely linked to dopamine, it is extremely important to consider sport: The tonic (“permanent”) dopamine level in the brain is dependent on the regular exercise we give our body. If our tonic level is low, our mood drops and the risk of food cravings increases. Immediately after exercise there is a strong phasic release of dopamine, due to “movement sensations” (“I am happy to have achieved something”) which in turn raises the tonic level for a while. Exercise is therefore an essential and long-term component in treating food cravings, depression and low moods.

Are you feeling motivated to get started and feel fit, balanced and happy? Maybe you should try an Upfit meal plan.


Try to understand your body. Ask yourself what’s behind your hunger. Are there physical or even psychological causes? Or is there a disease behind it? Only then can you take specific measures to counteract it.

Frequently asked questions

A food craving is to be distinguished from normal hunger. It is a strong, seizure-like desire for certain foods. Whether it is an appetite for sweet, salty or fatty foods varies from person to person. There are various reasons for this.

  • Nuts
  • Raw vegetables with dip
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Popcorn without sugar
  • Frozen banana
  • Rice cakes
  1. Eat breakfast
  2. Eat regular meals
  3. Choose whole grain products over refined products
  4. Include adequate protein in your meals
  5. Drink unsweetened tea, coffee and carbonated mineral water to fill your stomach
  6. Brush your teeth
  7. Chew gum
  8. Distract yourself with other activities
  9. Don’t ‘ban’ certain foods
  10. Get regular exercise
  11. Avoid undue stress
  12. Get plenty of sleep

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