Eat Empowered, Emotional Eating

Why You Have Food Cravings


You’d be totes jeal if you heard some of the crazy interesting stories I hear in my line of work.

Some people go to work and crunch numbers, but me, I go to work and hear about clients’ food cravings.

Honestly, sex-talk isn’t as enthralling as the client who told me the story about leaving the house to calm her ice cream craving only to notice she didn’t have shoes, keys or her phone with her.

The $20 spot she’d thrown into her pj’s pocket to run to the bodega didn’t buy her a pint, it got her super out of bed to let her back into her apartment!

I had a client so desperate for french fries that she stood in front of Shake Shack (she got through some email at least) an hour before it opened because the salty, crisp fix couldn’t come fast enough.

Ever wonder about the intensity of these food cravings?

We’re chippin away at the research and there’s some closing in going on, thanks to Tufts U (my alma, woot woot).

Before we get to the nitty gritty of what’s behind your craving, I want to remind you that with any and all research that comes out, you need to be a critical thinker.

Ask yourself, ‘is this reasonable to me?’ It never felt reasonable to me that cholesterol in eggs was so closely linked to heart disease, because most animals in nature eat them, and you never find a raccoon with blocked arteries.

I was always a skeptic, and lo and behold the findings on eggs were reversed.

Back to those food cravings.

Is it reasonable to crave ice cream and fries? Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to crave kale, salmon and tomatoes? That’s just what researchers explored. Here’s what they found:

  • The part of the brain that is linked to cravings is the same part of the brain that is active in addiction. These parts of the brain are linked to memory-reward and emotion. Hmmmm.
  • Similar to drugs and cigarettes, the more a craved food is eaten, the less it releases the happy hormones, so you need more food to get the happy the more you eat the food. Yeah, you’ve noticed the 2pm Hershey’s break isn’t as great as it was two months ago.
  • If you’re on a “diet” you should expect food cravings early on, but they’ll go away after some time. The memories of those delicious treats fade and the promise of feeling lighter and healthier will prevail.  Phew. I mean, really. It does make sense that we get used to eating treats. If we stop eating them, we will want them, but if we can push through, the desire will lessen.

As a person who thinks critically, I’m into these findings. They make sense to me.

Here’s what they suggest you do to conquer your food cravings and get power back into your hands:

  • Use visual imagery to get over your craving. Drawing a visual image (a house, your fave pair of shoes, an animal) will use the same brain centers and take your mind off the crave.
  • Whiff away. Smells can bring you out of your cravealicious self by Jedi-mindtricking your desire. Sniff some essential oils, such as jasmine, mint or calendula to intercept the desire.
  • Pick your weapons. Choose a couple of favorite sweet or indulgent treats and use them sparingly — even plan for them! Plugging a couple of them in every once in a while will make them more special and satisfying. And, you’ll feel empowered controlling what you consume and at the same time enjoying.  Sounds good to me!

Bottom line is that most of us crave calories, not nutrients.

Calories are linked to our biology, which hasn’t changed in hundreds and hundreds of years, in spite of our changed lifestyles.

Just remember, you are stronger than your food cravings (and now know why they exist, so you can extinguish them like a flame).

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