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!!