All About Food Cravings and How to Stop Them
By Dr. O'Brien for A.O.R.
We have all had those moments where it feels like we just cannot resist our food cravings. They take over our rational thoughts. Whether we are trying to avoid sweets or certain types of foods like grains, the craving can be so strong that we are willing to forego our long-term goals such as losing weight or feeling better.
In many cases, even when we know that certain foods make us feel sick, we still give in to the temptation. What is causing us to make the same mistakes over and over again? And how can we break the cycle? Let’s explore why food cravings occur and what we can do to resist them.
Food Cravings are Not the Same as Hunger
Although the term craving is often used interchangeably with hunger, the two are distinctly different. Food cravings do not require hunger as a precondition. On the flip side, craved foods are not always eaten. Perhaps the best evidence to show that increased hunger levels do not lead to increased cravings is the finding that dieters are no more likely to report food cravings than non-dieters. In circumstances where cravings do lead to eating, it appears to be as a result of hunger and emotions.
Causes of Food Cravings
There are many factors that seem to contribute to our intense food cravings. Here are some of the most recognized influences:
1. Blood Sugar Regulation:
Keeping your energy levels stable and your blood sugar stable appears to be a very big deal when it comes to cravings. Although hunger and cravings aren’t synonymous, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t linked. In those with type 1 diabetes mellitus, it was found that 66% of those with blood sugar reported food cravings, whereas only 15% of those with a well-balanced blood sugar level reported food cravings. Low blood sugar was also found to be closely associated with stronger cravings, cravings that were difficult to ignore and cravings toward foods high in carbohydrates.
2. Stress and Low Mood
Individuals tend to be stressed, anxious or experiencing a low mood just before they experience food cravings. Although many theories exist to suggest why certain foods are craved in these states, it seems that the body is trying to self-medicate by raising serotonin (the brain’s “happy” chemical) and the body’s own opioids. Research has long shown that carbohydrates are necessary to increase serotonin – so craving that bagel or muffin makes sense if you’re feeling stressed out or depressed. Some research has even shown sugar to be as addictive as cocaine by raising endorphins in the brain! That’s powerful stuff.
There is evidence to suggest that food cravings go up when we are bored, which makes sense when you think about the opposite scenario of being extremely busy. Too often, we’re running around for work, trying to meet deadlines, family responsibilities and social outings. Before you know it, 6 hours have passed and you haven’t eaten anything. Overall, it has been found that the motivation to eat is not only higher when people are in a negative mood, but also that people will eat to provide distraction when they have nothing else to do.
4. Positive Memories
Generally speaking, the foods that you crave come with immediate self-reward. Even if eating a piece of cake makes your stomach cramp an hour later, you still selectively remember how good you felt during those 5 minutes when your taste buds got to enjoy the chocolate and sugary goodness.
Various research has found that the most common craving in women is for chocolate (accounting for 49% of craving episodes), followed by ‘something sweet’ (16%) and cereal products such as biscuits and cakes (12%). But a 66% increase in the number of cravings has been observed for women during the premenstrual phase, so hormonal changes certainly affect the frequency of food cravings.
How Can We Change These Food Cravings?
Here are a few suggestions to get you started and to help you overcome your food cravings once and for all:
In the end, food cravings will always be an ongoing battle and it’s impossible to ever rid yourself of the desires. However, it is possible to control them. Know your triggers and focus on the most important ones to start. Finally, if there are any tricks or tips that you have found extremely useful, let us know by leaving a comment below!
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Originally posted at: https://drnibber.com/all-about-food-cravings-and-how-to-stop-them/ and used with permission.