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Ask the Readers: What’s Your Weakness?

by Nick

Over the weekend Betsy and I were watching some basketball and a commercial for the new Taco Bell taco made out of Doritos came on.

Betsy immediately rolled her eyes and sighed, “Great.”

I asked what what wrong.

“Well, I have to eat that now.”

I knew exactly what she meant. The food geniuses over at Taco Bell had somehow looked deep inside her soul and found the perfect mix of foods that would be irresistible.

There are sometimes foods that we try to avoid, usually for health reasons, that we simply can’t.

I have more of these than I would like to admit so I thought it would be fun to write a post about them and also discuss some strategies for dealing with them!

Food Cravings 101

Before we can even begin to discuss ways to fend off food cravings, it’s important to realize why they are happening.  In fact, if you are able to identify the cause of your craving, that’s a large part of the battle.

Here’s a few causes of your cravings.

Cold Turkey Dieting

If you completely eliminate something from your diet after eating it for a while, you’re going to crave it.  It has been my experience that people who try this usually fail unless they have a very compelling reason to succeed.

Eating out of Habit

Sometimes schedules will lead you to want certain foods.

My biggest example of this is coffee.  Even if I drink decaf coffee, having a cup in the morning is pretty integral to my daily survival.  It’s not even the caffeine for me, it’s the ritual.

Associations

This is similar to the above point but doesn’t have to be based on schedule.  Take a stroll by a movie theater and you’ll probably want popcorn.  If I watch a movie at 9AM I still want popcorn even if I would never think about eating popcorn at 9AM normally.

Not all Cravings are Bad

Cravings are a natural way for your body to tell you it needs something.  Being thirsty is technically a craving and one that I don’t suggest you try to fight!

Of course the hard part is identifying whether a craving is good or bad!

Billion Dollar Craving Creators

The food industry today is a billion dollar machine that is specifically geared to create (and satiate) cravings.

There are thousands of scientists not only analyzing what people like but also what types of foods create cravings.

Do you think it just magically popped in some dude’s head to smash together a Taco Bell taco with Doritos?  Absolutely not.  I’m sure they did tons of research crossing consumer groups and found a way to double up on cravings so they could create a product that is almost impossible to resist for some people.

I’m not saying that these food makers are necessarily doing bad work (although I think some of them are), but I do think it’s important for consumers to know what’s going on!

My Cravings

It wouldn’t be fair to just talk about my wife’s cravings or ask you all to share your cravings without first listing mine.

They are many.

Salty/Crunchy – I love anything salty and crunchy.  Any kind of chip or salty snack is going to be hard for me to fend off.

Ice Cream – I actually don’t have a sweet tooth but ice cream is an exception.  I love the stuff and can eat a bunch of it.  It was a bit embarrassing to admit in a comment a few days ago that I can easily eat a quart in a few days.

Beer – I don’t crave being drunk mind you… but I do love beer. I love trying new ones and love the complex flavors that brewers can create with just a few ingredients.

Coke – This is actually a rare one for me, but sometimes I crave Coca-Cola.  Not Pepsi or any other brand.  Just Coke.  This is obviously some crazy psychological crap, but it’s still impossible for me to defeat all the time.

Peanut Butter and Jelly – Some people grow out of the PB&J thing.  Not me. I still eat at least one a week.  It has to be smooth peanut butter and grape jelly.

My Strategies

Even though I’m writing this post about cravings and food weaknesses, Betsy and I actually do a pretty good job at winning these wars.  We generally eat home-cooked meals and snacks and stay pretty healthy.

These strategies might not work for everyone, but this is what we try to do.

Know your Weaknesses

If you don’t know what your cravings are, it’s pretty hard to fight them. Make a list (even if it’s mental) for the things that you like to eat.  Talk about it with others also. Just by knowing it and talking about it, you will become more accountable.

Cheating is okay

I think it’s really important to give into cravings on occasion.  For me, if I don’t do this then I’ll just completely fetishize the thing.  I don’t even drink a coke every day (I might have one a week), but I don’t beat myself up over it when I do have one.  I just enjoy it for what it is.

Out of House Out of Mind

For stuff that Betsy and I crave, we don’t buy it at the store except for very special occasions.  If it’s in the house, we will eat it, but if it’s not, we will rarely venture out to get it.  Since I do the grocery shopping, I just don’t buy the stuff.

Don’t kid yourself by saying that you are going to buy it and then ration it out.  That never works.

Create Good Cravings

This is a true story.  For a while I would eat a very hearty salad for lunch every day (one with hummus, tons of veggies, etc.).  This salad is super-filling and would leave me energized for the rest of the day.  After even a week or two of that, I would absolutely crave my big lunch salad if I didn’t have it.

What are your Weaknesses?

Do you have certain foods that you have a hard time saying no to even if you know they are unhealthy?

Are there certain food products that seem custom-made for you?

What strategies do you use to fend off this crap?

Cool burger illustration courtesy of Raphaelle_Ridarch.

 

 

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39 comments on “Ask the Readers: What’s Your Weakness?

  1. I absolutely love all sour candy! But I realized a year or so ago that I can cook things with lots of lemon juice, and it sort of fulfills that craving. I put lemon juice on roasted potatoes, lemon juice on green beans, extra lemon juice in my hummus…

  2. It’s funny, the usual suspects don’t really give me trouble. Ice cream, chocolate, and chips can easily sit forgotten in my kitchen. My weakness is something more basic: bread and butter. I can have one or the other in the house, but if I have both I can’t rest until the bread is gone. I do keep butter for the occasional baking jag or potato, so I usually deal with the problem by not keeping sliced bread around. The only bread I have are the functional kinds: hamburger buns, hot dog buns, pita. That’s what works for me.

    I have other cravings: chewy-fruity-gummy candies, Chipotle burritos. The way I usually deal with those is to say no to them the first few times, and it usually passes. But if I’ve been craving something for several days, then I just let myself have it and move on.

  3. Cake is my weakness. I can’t think straight if I think there is a cake nearby.

    Last month we went to a huge birthday party for my husband’s boss’s wife. It was at a country club, there was a well-known band performing, just the flowers, alone, probably cost more than my mortgage for 6 months. All night long, I kept thinking, “The cake is going to be huge and fancy! I hope I get a flower!” I’d even budgeted in my diet that week so that I could eat not only my cake, but my husband’s, too (he hates cake – opposites attract).

    Well, ‘dessert’ turned out to be a dish of chocolate ice cream with a chocolate dipped strawberry as garnish. I wanted to weep.

    And I know where this craving comes from. My Grandmother owned a wedding cake business. She made all my birthday cakes, and she didn’t hold back. My birthday cakes were fancier than some wedding cakes, with tiers and fountains and all the bells and whistles. So, yeah…cake stirs up some happy memories.

    Luckily, I’m a cake snob, so I don’t pig out often.

    1. On second thought, I’m not a cake snob, I’m an icing snob. If a cake has yucky icing, I can resist the whole thing. Cake is merely a device for getting the icing into my pie hole.

      Mmmmm…now I’m craving pie…

      1. I’m the same way about cake. If the icing isn’t good, I can resist the cake. It’s all about the frosting. I would have been just as disappointed about the lack of a cake at the birthday party.

  4. It’s totally 5 guys bacon cheeseburgers. Last month I had a class that let out at lunch time, and I walked right past one on the way home. Being hungry and smelling the deliciousness led to a lot of detours.

    That Taco Bell thing just looks nasty to me. I cringe over how processed it looks.

  5. I’m with Shanti, that taco bell thing sounds disgusting. Maybe because I’m not a huge fan of Doritos? My cravings? I’m with the first poster–bread and butter, especially if it has garlic and/or cheese. I crave lots of things with garlic in them for some reason? (Pastas, breads, etc.) I also crave bacon/egg/cheese breakfast sandwiches, but only if they come from a certain regional chain dairy store. I don’t care for McD’s breakfast sandwiches after trying the good ones. I’m absolutely addicted to soda (no particular brand), but it must have caffeine in it or it doesn’t work. I have 2 cups a day most days, but I’m working on cutting that back slowly but surely, because I think I will feel better and lose weight faster.

  6. I have to say, I’m happy to know that I’m not the only one who was drooling while everyone was saying “Gross!” when that Dorito’s taco was created.
    As far as weaknesses, salt and vinegar chips don’t have a prayer around me.

  7. I don’t eat meat, and I’m not a huge fan of Doritos, but I’ll admit, even I was intrigued by that taco when I saw it on TV. It’s like the pinnacle of scientifically engineered food. My weaknesses: salt & vinegar potato chips (I’m with you on the salty/crunchy), Sour Patch Kids, french fries dipped in tartar sauce or ketchup, sugary cereal with milk.

    The salt & vinegar chips happen now and then – my husband brings a little bag home to share and by the time we’re ready for bed I’ve decimated the bag. We get them when we’re having a picnic or road trip. Sour Patch Kids – those I sneak into the cart in Target now and then and devour in a day – the 4 serving box. Ugh. With the cereal, I don’t know what it is. If there’s Cinnamon Toast Crunch in my house, I will DESTROY the box. Like I’ll find myself sitting on the kitchen floor, covered in cinnamon sugar, eating pieces one-by-one out of the box. I buy sugar cereal once every few months, and just let myself have at it. I figure there are worse vices.

    I don’t go near the french fries, though. I’ll steal a few off someone else’s plate and close my eyes and savor them, but I won’t order them myself. It’s just a downward spiral from there. And they make me feel sick (fried food in general), so it’s like my body is saying, “Noooooo!” but they just look so damn GOOD!

    There was my therapy session for the morning. Thanks!

  8. Chipotle and pizza. Sadly I have to walk by both on my way home from work everyday. One other craving that isn’t too bad (in small doses) is Sabra hummus and pita chips. I’m trying to switch to dipping veggies into the hummus, but it’s hard to resist a good pita chip and dip. I love that crunch!

  9. My weaknesses are wavy lays potato chips, peanut butter m&m’s and See’s toffee-ettes. The new love in my life is the limited edition white chocolate easter m&m’s only available at Target (I have a feeling they’re going to go away after Easter, and have a stockpile).

    And on the how to resist front…I run. I mean literally, I run around 30-35 miles a week and generally that lets me eat pretty much whatever I want without gaining weight. I do eat healthy meals and I load up on all the veggies and healthy protein, and I don’t always have junk food around, but I am able to indulge when I want to and not feel guilty. For the last several years I’ve done a marathon and a half run every January (the WDW Goofy challenge) and when training for that I can eat *anything*–actually I have to pack in the calories or I start losing weight. It’s awesome!

  10. I have tons, of cravings… pizza, chinese food, chocolate, fast food, and ice cream.

    With being a fitness professional, I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that I fall prey to these cravings. But it’s the amount you eat and even possibly the way you order the items that divide you into 2 different categories. DIETERS and FIT PEOPLE.

    DIETERS will avoid cravings at all cost, but will enevitably fail and then over-indulge.

    FIT PEOPLE are typically successful at not over indulging but also take the time to think about the food they put into their bodies. Knowing that food is fuel and that 80% of their fitness success is their diet and the 20% comes from physical activity.

  11. So many… The worst are Breads. Not the sliced kind, but the good stuff. I can eat a whole olive loaf, parmesan loaf, even good french bread. Butter makes it better but is optional.

    Also, dips. Simple Guac, sour cream, bleu cheese, fiesta ranch. (in that order) Hummus, peanut butter, mashed pinto beans with sour cream and cheese stirred in. anything delicious and dippable is a very bad thing for me. because my hands do not know how to stop. omg.

    Bread and dip? OMGWTFHOLYCRAPTHISISSOAMAZEBALLSDELICIOUSDONOTTAKETHISAWAYFROMME!

    1. Oh, and real mexican food. Which may be understandable since I live in Texas and can only find the Tex-Mex stuff. Which, sure, it’s all right. But sometimes, you just want the good stuff, and for me it’s, Baja fish tacos, plain pinto beans, carne asada, grilled chives, corn tortillas.
      no orange cheese and gravy on my enchiladas. yech.

    1. LOL! My mom told me a long time ago about how she gorged on those when she was a kid and now she can’t eat them at all.

  12. In addition to cake like Michelle above, Nutella, Pepsi, burgers, and mashed potatoes.

    I avoid making cake unless I can take it to work the next day to give away. The good thing, I hate those storebought cakes in the freezer or on display in the bakery section. I also dislike the bakery cakes from most of the grocery/retail stores around here. Unless I know a cake was made from scratch or came from a bakery I like, which rarely happens, I’m not tempted.

    Nutella only comes in my house once every few months (loved your Nutella cookies). I satisfy my burger and Pepsi cravings together about once a month. Sometimes I get a burger from a restaurant but usually we’ll cook them at home. Of course we have Pepsi with it. Mashed potatoes, I’ll only make with either Yukon Gold or baby red potatoes. I’ve cut those down from several times a week to about once every two weeks. We use lots of butter and cream and don’t even tell me to make it with skim milk and no butter/butter substitute or, even worse, chicken stock. Nope.

    I think like most people, we just make sure not to keep the food or ingredients on hand. We try really hard to make these things a true splurge that requires effort to have.

    For decades, our preferred way of having tacos has been to crunch up Doritos in a bowl and put the taco toppings on and eat with a fork. You couldn’t pay me to eat at Taco Bell but man does that make me want to make my own version.

  13. Retro Taco Flavor Doritos….Can’t buy them cause I’ll eat them in the car before I leave the grocery parking lot… The bag won’t last a day.

  14. Licorice is my ultimate craving. I send my boyfriend out to CVS at least once a month to get me one of those big bags of licorice, and I’m sad to say that I can almost consume the entire bag by myself.

    Chips and salsa is another big one for me. Chips and guacamole as well.

    Sour candy, like some other commenters, is another weakness of mine. I especially love Sour Patch Kids.

    I also have pretty big obsession with chocolate covered raisins, and salt and vinegar chips are my go-to snack when I’m craving something salty.

    I don’t crave things like cake or dessert type things most of the time, simply because they’re never around the house (and I’m too busy to bake most of the time), but if it’s a special occasion and pies/cakes/cookies are around the house, then I pretty much go nuts.

  15. Well, the first thing that always comes to mind is…doughnuts. The plain old glazed usually does it just fine, but I do also adore a powdered sugared one with some kind of whitish creme inside. Oh, probably the icing type stuff or the cream filling is best. I really like homemade, fried in lard, the best. But, I think I have only had the real thing once or twice, like a more or less unrequited love. And it needs to stay that way. In a pinch, Dunkin Donuts will do.

    My other love is white corn tortilla chips. Love love love. And, Trader Joe’s makes a flax seed tortilla chip that is excellent. If they are just plain, I can enjoy all the carby goodness.

    I stand with the cake and ICING lovers, too.

    Ok- one more- I am crazy about gooood really horseradishy cocktail sauce! Speaking of being vehicles for something else- raw oysters are merely vehicles, albeit quite a nice complement for and with cocktail sauce. That’s it! Put a fork in me.

  16. I LOVE ice cream! I can eat it in a snow storm. I can leave Cake (except a good wedding cake) & Cookies(except homemade chocolate chip) sitting turning stale on a counter, but there is no ice cream safe around me!

    I also find myself often wishing that day I had a made a 1/2 dozen yeast rolls or a loaf of crunchy bread both with butter. I could forget about the rest of my plate(except a good steak) if there is good bread on the table!

  17. Too many to name: Moose Munch is completely addictive… salty, sweet, crunchy, DELICIOUS. And sometimes… I just have to have french fries. McDonalds french fries no less.

    Sigh

  18. Any combination of bread/carbs and cheese – toast with dijon mustard and melted cheese, quesadillas (bonus points if you add tortilla chips inside), crackers and cheese (along with mustard and olives), grilled cheese sandwiches, nachos, and pizza. Man, I just ate and I would eat all of those RIGHT NOW!
    I’m usually pretty good about avoiding sweets, but I occasionally give in and have a piece of candy, a cookie, or something else sweet if it’s in the house or in the office.

    1. I also get the craving for beer. And, like you, it’s not the craving to get drunk, it’s just how refreshing it is and that bite that it has. Luckily, I’m pretty good about not drinking during the week (and this is avoided by not having good beer in the house. My boyfriend just keeps PBR in the house since it’s cheap and I can definitely avoid it!)

  19. Wow. Reading about everyone’s cravings – and in the late afternoon at that – is seriously testing my willpower.

  20. I tried those because I have nothing close to my office other than Taco Bell and Hardee’s. Entirely forgettable.

    As far as cravings, I’m pretty much salty snacks but my dirty secret is binge eating candy. I don’t eat many sweets at all. I don’t like cake, cookies, or pies much. But about 2-3 times a year, I will get an intense craving and eat a bunch of Swedish fish, circus peanuts, or snickers in a 3-4 hour span.

  21. #1 Chocolate
    #2 Pasta, almost any kind, but especially with a good heavy sauce
    #3 mashed potatoes and gravy (forget the meat)
    # tons of ranch salad dressing (home made kind)

  22. Lays potato chips and oreos!! I am like you I do the shopping and I know that if I buy it and have it in the house I will eat it. I won’t even share with my 4 kids so all of it is eaten by me. I have found that lately if I am running errands around luchtime I usually want subway which can be good just not on my wallet. I just tell myself I have something to eat at home and I try to have gum with me so that I can chew on that till I get home.

  23. Pizza Hut’s pan pizza seriously tests my will power. I can make some delicious and decently healthy pizza on my own, but there’s just something about their greasy pan pizza that tastes like childhood.

    Also, those cadbury easter eggs with the gooey filling. Yummm.

  24. If there’s something you crave, that you shouldn’t be eating – why not just grow a backbone, and NOT BUY IT?

    Jiminy Cricket, quit being part of the herd of consumers. Develop some discrimination. Some aesthetics. I mean, it’s just co-branding. There’s nothing special about Doritos(TM), or, for that matter, Taco Bell(TM).

    The only salient fact I see here that is worth reporting is that sales of both products have slumped so far that the two corporations are forced – by falling sales and rising advertising costs – to merge their product lines.

    Looked at another way, either (a), Taco Bell(TM) outsourced their chip manufacturing … (b), Doritos(TM) underbid Taco Bell(TM)’s previous vendor of taco chips and taco shells … (c), Doritos(TM) is venturing into co-branding … or (d), a strange mixture thereof.

    None of this translates into a new taste sensation that “needs to be tasted” by anyone with any discrimination whatsoever.

    I don’t even believe your girlfriend, Betsy, exists. Surely she can’t be as gullible as you portray her to be.

    Maybe you should go get a real job and quit trying to shill for food-related vendors. I don’t see a lot of value being added, here.

    In answer to your question: If I like it, I learn how to make it at home, so I know what’s in it. Cravings are often nutritionally associated, and are to be listened to, but cravings for addictive substances – anything containing processed foods, refined sugar, or high fructose corn syrup – are regarded with concern.

    What’s next – a comparison of marked-up “specialty” ice creams – consisting of vanilla ice cream … and discarded broken cookie pieces, collected from underneath assembly lines? Yum!

    1. Hi Richard,

      Thanks for the comment. Clearly you are new to reading Macheesmo. 99% of my posts are about cooking things at home, from scratch. That’s why I created this site.

      The post wasn’t intended to promote any particular food, it was just to acknowledge that some people struggle with certain foods and to start a discussion about what those struggles are and how to deal with them.

      I’ll just quickly reply to your assumptions:
      1) I don’t really know what the Herd of Consumers is. Does that mean that I buy things? I do. You do too probably. I bet you have even bought something that you’ve seen in an advertisement.
      2) Betsy exists. I didn’t marry an imaginary person. She is very intelligent. I don’t feel the need to defend her any further.
      3) I not sure why you don’t consider writing a “real job”, but I have a separate job if that is what you mean. I run this website in my spare time.

      I believe the value in this website is the over 700 recipes I’ve posted showing people how to make things at home. It seems like maybe our values might align in that regard.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. The info you gave on the taco bell/doritos relationship is very interesting. I haven’t heard that before.

  25. Cravings- Very Good Question!
    There’s a lot of psychology that goes into our relationships with food. Every time I get really stressed- I want a brownie, or something chocolate, which happens to contain relaxing chemicals. Everyone has heard of Pavlov’s dog? We aren’t much different! Unfortunately, psychological reasons for craving foods are REALLY hard to alter. You’d have better luck redirecting a river. Just suck it up mentality doesn’t really get anywhere either besides furthering the guilty feeling we all get for giving into a craving we already hate having.
    For me – bread and butter. Has to be super fresh so I also smell it. mmm
    – pasta- cream sauce, butter and cheese, it’s the pasta that gets me
    – meat- oddly. Especially when its juicy and rare and heavenly seasoned.
    – brownies, or other chocolaty confection
    I absolutely agree with you, Nick. Keeping it all out of the house if Definitely the way to go. Unfortunately for many of us- we don’t live alone and have to find other ways to keep away from the stuff unthinking family members bring in! :)
    Having and apple instead just doesn’t press the satisfaction guaranteed button glaring right behind my eyes :D

  26. There aren’t very many food that I cannot resist but mac and cheese and stuffing (cooked inside the bird so it’s nice and moist) are two . I make both once a year and take them to Thanksgiving dinner at my best friends’ house. I have my fill (I try to make it no more than 1/2 c) and then I leave it there.

    Oh yeah, and Krystals. I can’t even convince myself that the pink slime in them should make me give them up completely. I have to pass one on my way to almost everywhere so occasionally I give in. Two cheeseburgers with extra pickle and ketchup.

  27. Cheesecake. Even “bad” cheesecake (out of a box). I prefer plain, with maybe some sour cream frosting. But I simply can’t resist it if it’s in the house. One good thing about it is that it’s so rich I can’t eat a lot at a time like I can with ice cream.

  28. There is no way to beat my McDonald’s addiction, I am convinced they put cocaine in their food.

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