We all have those triggers. You know that sweet (or salty) treat sitting in your pantry or frig. The donut or cookies that are calling your name from the store you pass on the way home from work after a long stressful day. The caramel drink is just a Starbucks drive-through away.
But here’s something you may not know, it’s not the food that’s making you crazy, it’s actually the craving. While some of us are better at controlling them none of us are without them but why? Why can’t we just control them? Why do we have them, to begin with?
There have been so many times I have been overtaken by cravings I sneak the pint of ice cream like I can actually hide the fact I’m eating it from myself. Like that is really possible. Can you relate?
So let’s talk a little bit about how cravings work. Cravings are both biological AND psychological. They most often come in the form of sugar, carbs, salt and sometimes cheese (yes, cheese and that is a post for another day).
Here are a few of the reasons you’ve got those cravings to start with.
We all know that emotions can trigger cravings. It’s probably one of the top triggers in my clients (and myself). After all who doesn’t want a bag of chips or pint of ice cream after a breakup or a stress-filled day?
Usually, cravings disappear after about an hour or when we address the feeling associated, but choosing to eat a healthier food, allowing yourself to make peace with the feeling or opting for a mood-boosting activity can satisfy you till the craving passes.
Low levels of serotonin
Serotonin in a neurotransmitter in our body that is responsible for us feeling good as well as balancing our mood but, a lack of it can cause depression. Interestingly enough 80-90% of this is produced in our gut. Eating lots of sugar or carbs tricks this chemical into making us temporarily feel good, and has our bodies saying, “Yes, I want more of that please”. Lack of it leaves us feeling more vulnerable to eating the not-so-nourishing foods when we need a pick me up. There are lots of reasons for low serotonin levels but one of them can be poor gut health and one reason for poor gut health are the very foods we crave.
Endorphins are another feel good chemical excreted from our pituitary gland. They are associated with serotonin and dopamine, but without getting too much into the science, eating sugary or salty foods increases the production of endorphins in your body just like serotonin. These chemicals make us feel relaxed and when we feel the feeling of feeling good we just want more of it. Experiencing food pleasure is similar to the way drug users experience drug pleasure and get addicted. In fact, studies show that sugar can actually have a more intense feeling of reward than cocaine! Powerful right?
Drugs given to addicts also suppress the desire to want sugar and inhibits the urge to overeat. Processed foods that are filled with sugar can cause addictive eating because of their rapid rate of absorption and that feel good effect just like drugs. Food companies love this but it defiantly doesn’t serve us. The more you can avoid packaged and processed foods, the more control you’ll have over your eating.
An unhappy gut
I’ve talked about serotonin and the gut. Making sure your gut is performing at it’s best is vital. When our gut is not in great shape we can’t absorb the nutrients we need nor can it send out that serotonin that makes us feel food. Eating sugar throws of levels of good bacteria in our gut which is vital to its performance and allows the bad bacteria to take over and when this happens we crave those processed sugary foods. Creating a happy gut will definitely calm those cravings.
Leptin is a hormone your body produces in your fat tissue. Its job is to let you know when you’re hungry and tell you when you’re full. What throws this hormone off is actually too much body fat. The more body fat you have the more leptin is produced. Leptin is also produced when we eat a diet full of sugary, processed foods. These leptin surges produced from eating these foods tricks your brain into feeling hungry even when you’re not. Are you starting to see the issue with the sugar?
These constant surges of leptin can lead to what is called leptin resistance causing your body to dull its ability to know when it’s hungry or full again, leaving you susceptible to cravings.
This is a lot of great information, but how can we kick the cravings?
These tips are easy and doable. If you make a commitment to adding them in daily you will find that you are feeling healthier, more energetic, dropping pounds and overall happier.
Eat REAL food. This means stick with foods that are not processed. They don’t come from a package they come from the earth. Try some recipes for treats that are made with real foods. There are so many great ones out there. You can still enjoy lots of sweet treats but making them without all the processed junk won’t trigger the cravings, the bad gut or the unsatiated appetite.
Stay hydrated. Make sure you’re drinking about half your body weight (lbs) in ounces of water daily (if you’re 150 lbs, drink 75 oz of water a day). Thirst and dehydration make you feel hungry and may kick up your food cravings. Drink water throughout the day to help you stay hydrated and control your hunger. Add a little lemon to your water or switch things up by making some tea.
Move your body Rather than relying on the drive through and the packaged products to help you feel relaxed and happy, go for a walk, bike ride, go for a swim during the day. Any activity will do. What did you enjoy as a kid? Also, power down a little earlier so you can crawl into bed a little earlier. Movement and sleep produce those feel good chemicals just like the sugary foods. These are key to cutting the cravings.
Meditate Taking a few minutes every day to meditate calms your central nervous system and brings more consciousness to all areas of your life including what you are craving and why.
Cleanse Cleansing your body helps it reset and return to its natural state. It is a great way to fuel your body with nutrient-dense foods. You can learn what foods you may be sensitive to and to also learn what foods make you feel your best.
While cleansing may sound intimidating they are actually much easier that you think and while 21 days is optimal you can get lots of benefits from a cleanse as short as 7-10 days.
Finally, cut out the sugar and packaged foods. I think I’ve said enough about the problems with theses and there are a 100 more issues I haven’t mentioned.
Does this mean you never get to have another slice of cheesecake at Christmas or on your birthday? Hell no, but choosing to have them from a conscious place- not a craving place keeps you in the driver’s seat of your health.
As always if you need some support figuring it all out hit reply and let me know. I love supporting women in becoming the healthiest happiest version of themselves.