Food Cravings are not as a result of hunger, hunger is a physical sensation felt in the body. Hunger represents the physiological need to eat food. The sensation of hunger is felt after only a few hours without eating and is unpleasant. (e.g. stomach cramps, headache from low blood sugar). It is the body’s mechanism to signal a need to increase blood sugar levels for efficient functioning of the body.
A food craving is an intense desire to consume a specific food whether we are hungry or not. We don’t really need the specific food we crave but we do remember really liking it. Cravings and over-eating on those foods aren’t instinctive or natural. They are learned behaviors, habits shaped over time, through the intricate mechanisms of habit formation. Eating and snacking on craved foods provide both relaxing physical and oral body sensations and feelings that give comfort.
Repeatedly experiencing and feeling the pleasurable short term and immediate results of eating foods, high in sugars and fats, which trigger dopamine highs in our brain pleasure centers, imprints these pleasurable feelings deep into our memory cells and later can affect us just as strongly and similarly to the addiction results of cigarettes and opioids, when our food craving is triggered.
Even when we know and manage to tell ourselves we do not need some food item, and after we have replaced it for days or weeks, simply seeing pizza or an old favorite sugar drink can suddenly and unexpectedly pull up memory of the pleasurable result years afterwards.
It is even worse for food than other addictions as we cannot use total abstinence and totally remove food from our lives following the methods of AA type approaches.
We need to use every method available to us to achieve the life change we are looking for and resist craved foods. Try and find an instant response, an alternate food or snack, an action that overcomes and replaces the craving thought in our brain. There is no one size fits all but over coming food addictions by pursuing a common healthier lifestyle resisting them especially reinforced by a peer group of family and friends has been proven a very effective route.
Most of us can list our top ten craved foods, perhaps one is in this list, chocolate, potato chips, cookies, ice cream, cake, alcohol, candy, pizza, bacon and pop. What do they all have in common? They quickly produce a high fat and/or glucose spike in our blood streams. The action of eating these foods can totally derail our weight loss success. The key is to try and understand what the triggers are that cause us to crave certain foods and then find a strategy to avoid the triggers.
TV ,online and magazine advertising is used by food companies to get us addicted to their foods and drinks. Repeatedly watching their adverts on TV results in purchasing and consuming these products that we do not need.
Let’s get into the habit of having healthy low calorie snack foods and water available to replace the high fat and high sugar foods and drinks we usually crave.
Food Cravings triggers can be categorized into four types.
- A Pattern – a place, a thing, a time of day can be linked to the pleasurable feeling and can stimulate the craving. W must think about what we are doing when we are eating one of our craved foods-, what is or was our trigger?
- Social environment– a group of friends or an associated activity can lead to repeating the craved response . Lets think about our social group, does being with them cause us to over indulge in a craved food.
- Emotional –self medication for sadness or anxiety. Do we eat a certain food when we are sad lonely or frustrated.
- Withdrawal- allowing our body to get too low on sugar.The first impulse can be to go to the high sugar foods of candy or chips to get that instant reward.
The only way to address food ravings is to avoid the trigger or to find that replacement food or action that works for us and eventually leads to a more acceptable habit.
Identify the foods you regularly crave and eliminate one from your home and from your shopping list each week.
Develop a replacement activity for each food cravings or situation that is associated with each trigger or craved food.
Find lower calorie substitutes and go too foods and drinks for each food or drink yoru crave. You may find you need a different substitute for each one.
Exercise like go for a walk immediately after dinner to stave off sweet desert cravings, leaving the room or exercising during commercial breaks on TV can works for many people to eliminate the T.V. snacking. Only you will find what works for you.
My wife does not like it that I myself use pickled onions as my go to substitute for many things.I can crave them as they are such a low calorie snack.