Where Do Cravings Come From?

My cravings for coffee are so strong sometimes that it feels like the cafe is magnetically pulling my car towards the parking lot.

Deepening your awareness of cravings is a skill which you can build. I thought we could have fun with this personal example today. I have a hunch that a few of you can relate.

Why are my coffee cravings so strong?

It’s not as simple as ‘I love coffee’.

First of all, before I was even born, there was a tremendous combination of forces already building that would one day combine to strongly influence me to drink coffee.

Most of you remember the jingle “The best part of waking up … is Folgers in your cup!” There was also the image of Juan Valdez, the guy with the horse inside your kitchen, promoting Colombian coffee.

The cheesy (but awesome) 80’s advertisements have evolved. In fact, they’ve gotten a lot better, and stronger. Starbucks is a perfect example. They don’t run TV commercials, but they have found other ways to get inside my head.

Having a cup of coffee at Starbucks is a way to attain a certain type of status. As Seth Godin says, ‘people like us do things like this.’ It come to the point where after hundreds of visits, being a Starbucks regular becomes part of my identity.

(Now, a quick side note: without going too far off in a tangent, most of my coffee is home-brewed, and I much prefer a slowly poured-over cup of organic, fair trade coffee in my house, or at a local independent cafe, to a Starbucks. But because I have been engaged heavily in Starbucks culture, and because it is so prevalent, it was worth citing. But you could insert the brewer of your choice there.)

All of that marketing counts. I’m not immune to that, and neither are you.

Then there is the social & cultural aspect. My parents, teachers, co-workers, and friends drink coffee. Here in the US, we have a coffee culture. (Unlike Japan, for example, where there is a tea culture.)

Many of my mentors in the health & wellness space drink coffee. For example Ben Greenfield has done several articles & podcasts about coffee, and he even has a coffee that he sells, which is excellent.

So every time I read something about the health benefits of coffee, it just reinforces everything already stated above, because health & wellness is part of my life’s mission.

What about the taste of it? I love a good cup of coffee, preferably freshly ground, single-origin, pour over or french press, and black.

But did I really enjoy it the first time I tasted it? I don’t think so.

What about the price of it? I’ve paid as much as $15 for one cup at various roasters in Brooklyn. There’s possible placebo effect there: when you pay more, you expect that it will taste better before you taste it, and that usually comes true.

Typically I assume that if it’s cheap, it sucks. That may be true, but, maybe not always. And if I’m being completely honest, paying more for an expensive coffee does make me feel good.

What about the fact that I feel like I need coffee when I drive, especially in the morning? (This later, after many years, turned out to be false. But it was a very difficult habit to break.)

And finally, there is the addiction to caffeine. How do you know if you have one? It’s simple: can you easily go two or three days without one cup?

So you can see that there are many forces at play when cravings come up.

This applies to food, not just coffee.

I’d like to wrap this post up by stating that nothing I have written today is intended for you to interpret as good or bad.

This is important. I am not for or against marketing, emotions, status symbols, or coffee. Those things are, in my opinion, neither good nor bad.

The simply are.

This is important because they do exist, and they are complicated.

Sometimes, those cravings fit perfectly with who you want to be. Sometimes, they do not.

It is only when they do not, and then when you continue to allow them to influence you, that tension is created.

So, if what you eat serves who you are, and who you want to become, that’s great. But if it doesn’t, or if you’re not sure, then, the first step is to start to notice the feelings that arise when cravings occur.

And, also to have some clarity about who you are, and who you want to become.

But that’s a topic for another post.

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