Dealing with Cravings
CRAVINGS I get asked about this all the time. I was a chocolate and chippies kind of gal. I was an emotional eater, a celebrational eater, a secret eater, a snack on the run eater….you name it, I’ve done it.
On a really basic level, cravings fall into 3 categories:
1. nutritional: so your body is craving particular nutrients
2. emotional / sabotage: you’re addicted to or crave foods that actually make you feel crap
3. associative: connected to great times or people. As an example, every time I think of my mother, I crave roast chicken and her crispy bread stuffing that was always cooked in a separate pan. Crunchy, savoury and golden….MMM! I’m actually drooling right now just thinking of it!
Here’s what actually happens when you have a craving, regardless of it’s trigger: (This is just an example)
- The image of a bar of chocolate enters your mind. Your brain knows it is high in fat and sugar, so releases chemicals that intensify desire. The lure of chocolate gets stronger.
- Areas of your brain associated with memory and/or emotion kick into action. It links the thought of chocolate with memories of the most delicious thing you have ever tasted, how it felt in your mouth and how it made you happy.
- You hold the chocolate bar in your hands. As you unwrap it and break off your first square, your brain registers a familiar, much-loved ritual, and levels of pleasure-inducing serotonin rise.
- The sweetness hits you tongue. Your body begins to absorb and process the sugar, boosting serotonin levels in the brain. Chemicals in chocolate called alkaloids boost serotonin levels. This pushes you to crave another square.
- The bar of chocolate is gone. Brain chemicals very quickly drop and your stomach pumps out Leptin. This lets you know it’s full. The hormone Insulin is flooded into your system to clear out the sugar.
- You end up with low blood sugar, no serotonin or dopamine. You feel guilty, disappointed in yourself and flat in energy. What do you do next? Reach for another bar? (FYI: This is like a choose your own adventure story and in this moment, it’s either the craving or your desire to be happy and healthy that will win!)
How I beat my cravings
That’s right, I don’t have cravings anymore. How come don’t crave that sweet chocolatey goodness? Or diet soda (which was my biggest addiction) or chippies, breads and cakes?
The steps I’ve gone through to ensure the 3 types of cravings never win are:
1. I don’t deprive myself of nutrition. I eat a balanced diet and my bodies urges for particular nutrients are satisfied. I’ve also developed a whole bunch of healthy recipe alternatives for what most people call ‘treat food’. That way I can still have my cake and eat it too!!
2. I looked at what I was craving and WHY. I addressed the EMOTIONAL yearning and worked out how to satisfy that.
3. Roast chicken is great. I just pass on the stuffing as it doesn’t serve my health and give in to my savoury needs with low carb alternatives. Cashews or peanuts are a great choice.
SO: are your cravings bigger than you? If so, how can I help?