This topic is huge, so I will focus on the basics. Why do we have cravings in the first place and is it bad to have cravings? Is it related to habit we created ourselves and/or is it sugar we crave? Above all, sugar is at least 5 times more addictive than cocaine so am I addicted to sugar? Whatever the situation, there are a few things that you can do if you want to get over those cravings and put a stop to your possible addiction.
The Science Behind the Cravings
Taste preferences are established while we haven’t been born yet, yes, in the womb. The mother’s diet can have a direct impact on the foods that the unborn child wants to eat. If the mother eats a lot of food high in salt, fat, and sugar, then the baby will be more likely to want those foods too.
The combination of mostly salt, fat, and sugar in food creates a response within the reward centre of the brain. It is this response by the brain what makes one want to have more and more of foods containing mainly high sugar content. Food manufacturers understand this and they actually develop food in such a way that makes you addicted so that you will continue purchasing their product.
There are also physiological reactions which occur within the body to make one want to crave certain types of food. Our ancestors lived in an environment where it was feast or famine and when food was available the instinct was to eat as much as possible. Those primal responses still lie within each of us, even though there is plenty of food to eat.
Nutritional deficiencies can have a direct impact on ones cravings as well as most of our western diet is relatively high in calories but reasonably low in nutrients. Low nutrient levels result in a person being fed but never satisfied as the body is lacking in some of the most important nutrients that are needed for optimal health. When you eat foods which are particularly high in sugar and salt you are very unlikely to have enough foods containing important vitamins and minerals that are needed to improve your health and sustain life. The mind will continue to ask you for more sugary, salty food and so it spirals out of control. The body tries it’s hardest to deal with all the processes, in time it becomes overworked, resulting in extra storage (fat)cell creation, tired organs, excess pressure on the body, excess weight, leading to malfunction, poor alignment, poor health and decreased longevity.
Additionally, many people have deep emotional ties with certain types of foods, based on the memories that they associate with those foods. Things such as holiday traditions or fond memories with family or friends can cause deep emotional ties with those foods.
5 Tips on how to deal with food cravings
1. Reduce, then eliminate intake of processed foods and eat whole foods instead. When one is eating whole foods one will be building up the nutrient stores within your body. By increasing consumption of nutrients one can effectively reduce cravings as the body is receiving the vitamins and minerals needed.
2. Use intermittent fasting to reduce sugar cravings. Sugar stimulates the brain in the same way as certain drugs and one will go through withdrawals as one is trying to stay away from sugar. Many people feel that they need to avoid sugar completely and intermittent fasting can be a good way to kick-start the sugar cleanse. Limit the eating hours to an 8 hour window a day as this helps the body to use up glycogen stores and burn fat instead of constantly having to work through the sugars that you are eating. Only use this method to reduce and eventionally stop sugar cravings.
3. Face the emotional issues that are tied with food. If you find yourself reaching for food every time you are bored, stressed, sad, or angry, then it might be good to stay away from sugary foods such as biscuits, sweets and allow yourself to experience those emotions instead. Sleep more and go to bed on time, see a therapist, write in a journal, or use meditation to help you work through the emotions that are associated with your cravings. Take control of these emotions which helps to take control of your craving. It is hard to give up sugary and salty foods but keep in mind that it gets easier with time. Stay consistent with your efforts so your body can detox from the (somewhat) sugar and salt addiction that you are dealing with. As things improve and cravings are kept at bay please ensure you consistently stay strong with your food choices, in order to avoid slipping back into those bad habits again.
4. Another tip is to control your craving by not just eating whole foods but also by analysing your weaker moments during the day and plan what quality and nutritious food to have instead. For the snackers amongst us this means to have a healthy (perhaps protein) snack to hand which fills you up enough to last until your next whole foods meal. Remember, fail to plan means you plan to fail.
5. Lastly, the fifth tip is to exercise when your get an emotional craving as when you are moving your body you don’t think about food. If you get a craving perhaps go for a short power walk or walk or jog up a few flight of stairs to get your heart rate up. Doing a short quick burst of activity that gets your heart rate up will help get rid of your cravings.
If you follow the above 5 tips you boost your metabolism (the rate at which your body burns calories) as eating, sleeping, drinking and exercising right assist greatly with this issue. The above is a guide only and as we are all different I can understand you want continued advise for you specifically in order to efficiently achieve the results you crave.
Please contact me for further information.
Stay Fit For Anything
Roel Jansen (RJ)