Our bodies are magnificent, intelligent machines and tell us everything that we need.
There’s on caveat.….we gotta listen.
See, the body is designed to give us signals like when it’s time to eat, drink more water or when something is off within our bodies like illness or disease.
In this case, the same thing goes for when your body is craving high carb, high sugar and fat foods…you know, the foods we should stay away from.
However, these cravings, a.k.a “comfort foods” are sometimes hard to turn down because these foods have a chemical response within the body and release dopamine (the feel good hormone) that activates the reward center in our brain that has us coming back for more.
So what causes the cravings and how do we curb them?
A craving is a motivational state that gives us the urge to seek out and consume a particular food.
And if you’re like most people, 98% of women and 68% of men (basically everybody! lol) I’m sure you’ve had one.
The most common cravings are sugar, salt, fat and high calorie foods and is your body’s way of communicating with you.
There are many reasons why our bodies crave certain food and the state of our hormones (balanced or unbalanced) have a direct impact on our hunger and eating habits by releasing signals to the brain.
These signals reach the Hypothalamus, the command center of the brain, that controls our eating patterns; when, what and how much we eat.
However, the emotional satisfaction we get from food can override these signals and cause use to succumb to the cravings.
Other parts of the brain that have an impact on our cravings are the hippocampus, caudate and insults.
Researchers used MRI’s to show the areas that light up during food cravings are identical to those involved in drug addiction.
Crazy right?! Yes, just like drugs, food can be an addiction.
Other parts of the brain that play a role is the hippocampus which is important for memory, and helps reinforce the reward-seeking behavior that causes us to crave.
The caudate also plays a role in these reward mechanisms, and it helps us to form habits, including food-related ones. The insula contributes to the emotional connection between food and cravings.
Causes of Cravings
1. Stress & Emotions- That stressful job or unhealthy relationship may be driving you to unhealthy eating habits to fill a void. Increases stress hormones like cortisol which increases appetite. Especially for high fat and sugar foods.
2. Dehydration- Dehydration can be disguised as hunger. So have a glass of water first when a craving kicks in. You may just be thirsty and your body is craving water…an essential element to life.
3. Taste buds/Addiction- taste buds have gotten accustomed to overly processed foods made in the lab and your reward center has been overstimulated causing you to become addicted to them.
4. Seasonal- Holidays, Emotions, Memories, Smell (Baking bread, pies, etc.)
5. Lack of Nutrients- Body is seeking what it’s lacking. Chocolate- Magnesium, Meat- Iron, Chips, sodium.
6. Hormonal- Pregnancy and menstruation or fluctuating testosterone or estrogen levels.
7. Lack of Sleep- Sleep balances your hormones and when not enough it increases cortisol, which increases cravings for high fat and sugary foods.
Now that you know what causes cravings, let’s talk about how to curb them.
How To Curb The Cravings
1. Manage Your Stress Levels- Meditate, Journal
2. Drink More Water
3. Eat More Whole Real Foods- specifically Leafy Greens & Proteins
4. Out of sight out of mind- if you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it.
5. Have healthier options for your cravings
6. Lose weight, lose cravings (or they greatly diminish)
7. Get More Sleep- the recommended 7-9 hours.
So as you can see, our cravings are part hormones and part psychology, but now that you know this, you can create a plan to defeat them where they’re no longer controlling you and adding to your waistline.
If you need more help learning how to curb your cravings and how to eat to help you reach your goals, grab a copy of my 90-Day Holistic Nutrition Food Guide!
It’s an interactive guide that teaches you how to eat for your body to help you eliminate cravings, lose weight and keep it off.