Why Am I Craving Carbs? 5 Reasons for Persistent Cravings & How to Make Them Go Away

5 really good reasons why you're craving carbs & why it's not such a bad thing

Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients – carbs, fats, proteins – that are essential for a healthy and balanced diet. They are an important source of energy for the body and provide numerous other health benefits. However, many people struggle with unwanted carb cravings and find themselves racking their heads agaist the wall wondering, why am I craving carbs so much?

From what I have seen as an eating psychology coach, most people that struggle with craving carbs are restricting carbs. Not only that, but they might even be afraid of carbs because the diet industry has villainized carbs as the primary reason for weight gain.

However, the fear of carbs swirling around us is just like the fear of fats back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s when low-fat diets were hugely popular. Back then, we believed that eating fat made us fat, but now we know better.

These days carbs are the enemy, and I hope that the future will bring us to a place where we know better. Carbs have benefits! And we have swung too far in the opposite direction, following extreme diets that cut out carbs entirely, which only causes us to crave more carbs.

But there could be more to it than that. There could be a lot more to those moments feeling like, why am I craving carbs all the time? This article will cover all possible reasons why you’re craving carbs, from low-carb diets to low blood sugar and more.

Why Am I Craving Carbs? Let’s Look at the #1 Culprit First

Carbohydrates are a major source of energy for the body, providing fuel for physical and mental activities. When we eat carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose, which is then used as energy. Carbs also help regulate blood sugar levels, which can help prevent fatigue and mood swings.

Perhaps your brain is already arguing with me because of the hugely trending ketogenic diet trend. With the ketogenic diet, people aim to reduce carb consumption so dramatically that the body is forced to use fat as fuel. This can be problematic and, if you are on the keto diet, it could be the reason why you’re craving carbs.

Encouraging your body to use fat as fuel in order to lose weight is innocent enough on the surface. But it completely neglects the very important fact that your body is wired to survive, be efficient, and adapt.

In other words, your body is incredibly smart, and it will eventually outsmart any efforts to eat low-carb by causing you to crave carbs!

Using fat as energy is extremely inefficient for your body. When we consume fat, it must be broken down into fatty acids and then converted into a form that our cells can use for energy, which requires more energy and resources from the body. This process is called fatty acid oxidation, and it’s not nearly as efficient as glucose metabolism.

Following a ketogenic diet and restricting your carbohydrate intake will eventually cause you to crave carbs because your body is not getting the glucose it needs, and fat is an inefficient source of energy, as you will soon learn. 

Exploring 5 Possible Reasons Why You’re Craving Carbs

However, not all cravings for carbs stem from a low-carb or ketogenic diet. Up next, we will explore all possible reasons why you’ve been wondering, why am I craving carbs all the time?

1. Emotional Eating

A common reason for craving carbs is emotional eating. When we’re feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed, we often turn to comfort foods like pasta, bread, and sweets to help us feel better. This can create a cycle of craving and overeating carbs, feeling guilty for eating foods that we have labeled as “bad,” and then continuing to eat more carbs to cope with the guilt and other bad feelings. I’ve been there, and it is not fun.

If you think emotional eating is behind your carb cravings, it’s important to address the underlying emotional issues rather than simply trying to resist the cravings. First, the more we resist a particular food, the more we want it! It’s called the restrict-binge cycle. Secondly, fixating on food itself is often a huge distraction from the more-important inner work that is often needed – namely our feelings.

Many of us have trained ourselves to resist any moment where we don’t feel good and, furthermore, to think that something has gone horribly wrong. This is in part due to a culture centered around happiness – fueled by social media feeds that only show us the highlights of someone’s life; making us feel bad about our actual (read: REAL) lives.

Instead of resisting the moments where we feel bad, what if we lean into them? Will it break us like we think it will? I promise that it won’t. This is the premise behind my Stop, Drop, & Feel method to stop binge eating, which asks you to lean into those sharp edges instead of running away.

While this may sound intense, it helps you develop emotional tolerance, which means that you’ll be less inclined to turn to food whenever you feel uncomfortable. The more you practice tolerating discomfort, the more resilient you will be to the inevitable moments in life where we don’t feel super great.

Best of all, carb cravings naturally go away because you start to cope without food by dealing with your emotions instead of neglecting them; and you’ll be able to eat more intuitively instead of doubting whether carbs are good, bad, allowed, or not allowed.

2. Imbalanced Blood Sugar Levels

Not everyone that’s stuck wondering, why am I craving carbs?, is an emotional eater though. And those of us that do struggle with emotional eating don’t always crave carbs simply because of our emotions. Sometimes it’s biological due to imbalanced blood sugar levels. 

When your blood sugar levels are low, your body may crave carbs as a way to quickly raise blood sugar levels and gain energy. While this is especially common in people with diabetes or other blood sugar disorders, it can happen to anyone that goes too long without eating, exercises intensely (or runs errands for hours on end without eating), or eats a meal loaded with refined carbs.

If you’re experiencing frequent carb cravings, it may be worth talking to your doctor to rule out any underlying blood sugar issues. Additionally, you can also focus on keeping your blood sugar stable by pairing processed carbs with protein to counteract the effect of sharp spikes in blood sugar. 

While processed carbs like white bread and sweets cause blood sugar to spike, I don’t recommend avoiding them because making foods off-limits actually makes you want them more.

It also helps to use tools like the Stop, Drop, & Feel when you want to eat sweets or processed carbs and you don’t actually want to be eating them (i.e. compulsive carb cravings). This will ensure that you’re focusing on the deeper levels of eating psychology and developing emotional tolerance instead of simply focusing on the surface level of food.

3. Lack of Sleep

Believe it or not, lack of sleep can also lead to carb cravings. When we’re sleep-deprived, our body produces more of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates hunger and cravings, especially for high-carb, high-fat foods. Lack of sleep can also lead to imbalanced blood sugar levels and increased stress, both of which can contribute to carb cravings.

4. Nutrient Deficiencies

The last time you thought to yourself, why am I craving carbs, were you eating a variety of foods or repetitive foods? Carb cravings can sometimes be a sign of nutrient deficiencies, and people that eat repetitive foods (I can’t lie, that’s me all the time) are at risk of not getting all essential nutrients from diet alone.

For example, if you’re not getting enough magnesium, which is found in foods like nuts and seeds, you may experience carb cravings because magnesium is important for regulating blood sugar levels and reducing stress

Similarly, if you’re not getting enough B vitamins, which are found in whole grains either naturally or fortified, you may experience carb cravings as B vitamins are important for energy production and mood regulation.

If you suspect that nutrient deficiencies may be contributing to your carb cravings, it may be worth talking to a doctor or registered dietitian to get your nutrient levels tested and to develop a plan to incorporate more nutrient-rich foods into your diet.

5. Restricting Carbs Too Much

Finally, it’s worth repeating that restricting carbs often causes you to crave carbs. When you restrict carbohydrates too much, your body can start to crave them as a way to make up for the energy deficit and inefficiency of using fat as energy. This restrict-binge cycle is why many people experience rebound weight gain after following a low-carb or ketogenic diet.

Fortunately, there is a better way to stop feeling guilty for eating carbs, stop emotional eating, and feel in sync with your hunger and fullness again: Psycho-Spiritual Wellness. This is the name of my program where I focus completely on eating psychology and spirituality as a path towards a healthy relationship with food.

Eating Psychology as a Better Solution

While it’s important to understand the reasons behind your carb cravings, it’s also important to remember that when willpower is focused on restrictive diets alone, it is not a sustainable solution. Research has shown that diets don’t work in the long term and can actually lead to weight gain, disordered eating, and negative health outcomes.

Instead of focusing your willpower on restriction, it’s important to shift your energy to your psychology. Eating psychology-based programs like Psycho-Spiritual Wellness can be a helpful tool for developing a healthier relationship with food and carbs by addressing the underlying issues that may contribute to unwanted carb cravings.

Some strategies for practicing eating psychology include:

  • Permission to Eat: The more we restrict certain foods like carbs, the more we want and crave them. By allowing all foods and getting rid of food rules, you may find that you crave carbs much less. I can personally attest to this! As someone that once compulsively craved and binged on cookies, I now have a healthy relationship with sugar and I hardly eat them anymore.
  • The Stop, Drop, & Feel: This tool is the bread and butter of Psycho-Spiritual Wellness that asks you to do an emotional check in before a binge. While that may sound difficult, because the moment before a binge is often the most compulsive, it works when Permission to Eat is in full effect.
  • Body Acceptance: It doesn’t come all at once. In fact, I personally think that improved self-esteem is a byproduct of giving up dieting and emotional tolerance. You can also use other psycho-spiritual tools like affirmations and non-physical compliments (aka, making others feel good about something other than looks).

By incorporating these strategies and focusing on your psychology rather than dieting, you can develop a healthier relationship with food and reduce your carb cravings in a sustainable and healthy way.

Carbs Are Not the Enemy

I know how frustrating it can be to deal with carb cravings when you’re trying to lose weight or simply feel better. But carbs are not the enemy. By focusing your energy on your psychology instead of dieting, you’ll gain far more traction than continuously attempting low-carb diets over and over again.

Give yourself Permission to Eat and watch how your cravings for sweets dramatically go away over time. (See the stages of giving up dieting to know what to expect here.) Practice the Stop, Drop, & Feel and watch how your cravings for carbs fade away as you naturally require less and less buffer between you and your authentic life.

“We don’t want to EAT hot fudge sundaes as much as we want our lives to BE hot fudge sundaes. We want to come home to ourselves.” -Geneen Roth

Keep It Going: Get "The Spiritual Seeker's Guide to Stop Binge Eating" (Free Ebook)

The Spiritual Seeker's Guide to Stop Binge Eating

The Spiritual Seeker’s Guide to Stop Binge Eating will show you even more insight into the subconscious reasons why we eat past fullness — even when we really don’t want to be! (It’s a free 13-page PDF.)

When you sign up, you’ll also get a free 5-part crash course in Psycho-Spiritual Wellness to catch you up to speed. It’s perfect if you’re new! Sign up below:

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If you think food is your weakness, take the quiz and give me the chance to change your mind. There are just 8 questions.

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You're Really on a Roll: Get a Handle on Self-Sabotage

Bestseller: Why We Do the Things We Do

If you’re ready to take things even deeper, check out my most popular workbook, Why We Do the Things We Do: A Workbook to Curb Self-Sabotage.

By actually putting pen to paper, you’ll be surprised by what comes up. This is how you can discover your unique psychological blocks to compulsive eating.

I swear by workbooks!!! There is something about separating our thoughts onto paper that allows us to dig DEEP at our subconscious blocks around food and weight.

If you like everything you’ve read so far, this is the perfect place to make massive progress. (It’s my bestseller, after all!)

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