There’s always lots of talk in blogland about cravings.  Why do I crave this?  Why can’t I stop eating that?  What exactly do I crave, and WHY do I crave it?  Is food ACTUALLY addictive, or am I just weak-willed?

Lately, I’ve been doing extremely well with food choices.  Not eating everything that shows up in the breakroom at work.  Not wanting something really bad and having to fight with myself to not eat it.  Not even wanting to stress eat, in spite of an overly stressful couple of weeks, combined with too much travel and not enough sleep.

Of course this topic really interests me, because having to fight cravings all the time is just pure torture.  I really don’t want to have to fight cravings every day for the rest of my life.  Of course, I’ve talked a lot about the ‘Vicky food’ lately (new readers:  Vicky is my personal trainer, and basically she prepares food that would be considered extremely ‘clean.’  But absolutely delicious, and really, it is gourmet food.  No preservatives, no artificial sweeteners, mostly organic, and a good combination of healthy carbs, healthy oils, and protein.)  Vicky believes that a lot of the chemicals and artificial sweeteners in our foods can lead to cravings.  IMO, the jury is still out on this, as I have not seen scientific backing yet.  But I have drastically cut back on my use of splenda, and cook most of my food from scratch, so no other chemical/preservative stuff.  But I think this is just one factor in the craving puzzle.

This guy wrote a book that I think I will order.  I watched the little video trailer and really thought he was right on about the food industry LAYERING sugar, fat, and salt to entice us, and that is what leads to such terrible cravings.  I really agree with this.  Its not JUST sugar, its not JUST fat.  I like the combination of both.  I had already identified that.  But then, when he said they layered salt, a bell rang in my mind!  EXACTLY!  That is what I love in food.  Even in baked goods, I know I like the bit of salt that ‘brings out the flavors.’

But yesterday, I read a very interesting article in a new magazine, ‘Clean Eating.‘  Can you believe they have a whole magazine about this?  Being the magazine junky that I am, I could not resist.  It is actually a very nice magazine full of pretty pictures and delicious sounding recipes.  Anyway, they had an article about controlling cravings.

This article had some of the tips we are familiar with (but they really do help–try them!):  

1.  Stay well nourished (try 6 small meals instead of 3 large ones.)  It really helps me to know I can eat something again in a few hours.

2.  Be well rested.  GO TO BED!!!

3.  Exercise.  Yawn….yes, we know this.

4.  Avoid food triggers and cues.  Avoid that aisle in the store, or just go to a different store!  This is something I have done, but always tended to think it was kind of a deficit in me, that I had to avoid a store to avoid eating a food.

But the most interesting part of the article was that we are ‘hooked on a feeling.’  Its not the actual food, but the sense of energy or calm, or excitement or peace that we crave.  Serotonin and dopamine are the chemicals in our brain that are responsible for those feelings.  You can boost serotonin by eating certain foods:  brown rice, turkey, yogurt, cashews, bananas, pumpkin seeds, avocados, and almonds are a few that they name. “Stress, poor nutrition and lack of sleep, exercise and sunlight can each deplete serotonin levels.”

But the information about dopamine was the most interesting to me.  “Dopamine plays a role in the complex pleasure-reward brain circuit that creates desire.  When you experience that excited feeling when you know something good is about to happen, that’s dopamine at work.”  And what they suggest is that you can get that feeling by planning a project that brings you a feeling of excitement and anticipation.  They say you don’t even have to complete the project.  Just working on it, getting excited about it, planning it can trigger the dopamine that might help curb your cravings!  And it brought to mind my decision to get a sewing table, working more concretely on my quilting as art, looking for the right chair, etc.  Most of this has been the planning/dreaming stuff.  Is it possible that this has contributed to my ability to control cravings in the past few weeks?

As always, food for thought…no calories or points involved–woohoo!!


6 thoughts on “Cravings

  1. I loved your post. I’ve just come back from yet another road trip, and every rest stop is a trial for me. Road trips are boring! I deserve a reward (wish I liked apples as much as candy bars). They might have something I’ve never had before in this part of the country (they might, but chances are it will be made with the lethal trifecta of sugar, fat and salt).

    Bad habits are so hard to break. And using food for entertainment or as any kind of coping mechanism is a particularly difficult behavior to stamp out.

    But I will!

  2. it is amazing how, for me, highly processed crap begets LOTS OF CRAVINGS FOR MORE PROCESSED JUNK.

    I used to t hink it was all in my head—NO LONGER.

  3. “kind of a deficit in me”

    I think that is what most of us think – and I don’t think it is true. I think that the additives in processed food are Insidious. And the ones that I lump together as the “whites” are baking soda/powder, flour, sugar, salt. I think that is a particularly overwhelming combination. If sugar was dear (expensive) and we had to grind our own wheat – would be a different story.

  4. I have been doing a lot of thinking about the sugar connection and cravings for me. My favorite Aunt lost about 100 lbs. over a year or so, and I talked with her last night. She said that once she got over the cravings for sugar, she was able to really focus on eating well and healthy. Even diet soda sets her off terribly. Soooo, I’m working now on getting off sugar and faux sweeteners as much as possible. We’ll see what happens in the next few days.

    Very interesting that dopamine generated by keeping hands and mind busy can satiate the desire for food.

    thanks for the article highlights!

  5. Well said Debby! I think your preoccupation with the sewing table, etc probably has a lot to do with your lack of cravings lately. I know when I’m busy doing something fun, I don’t think about my cravings much at all.

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