Food Cravings

Inspired by Robb Wolf….

Does chocolate start calling your name around 2 p.m.? Does that bag of potato chips start talking to you an hour after dinner?The reasons we crave sugar and salt are partly physiological, partly psychological and partly because of the environment in which we live.

One reason is due to the hyper palatability of modern foods combined with our modern lifestyle. These two things are the driving forces behind the current obesity epidemic we are facing. Our modern lifestyles are leading to us having food cravings and when we encounter these food cravings what do we typically reach for? Usually not more non-starchy vegetables.

There are four areas of our lifestyle that can drive our food cravings. These four areas are bacterial, nutritional, emotional, and physical.

We need to have an understanding of all four and the ability to assess the root causes of our cravings that are making our abilities to stick to a healthy balanced diet almost impossible.

  1. We have more bacteria in our bodies then we have human cells. One way our gut bacteria can get what they need is from driving our mood and behavior. We need to make sure that are gut microbiome is kept in balance to help alleviate cravings. Eating a plentiful amount of fruits and vegetables along with resistant starch we can help develop a strong community of beneficial bacteria.
  2. Nutritional deficiencies will also drive cravings. In this modern day we consume the majority of our calories from processed and refined foods. These foods are high in calories and low in nutrients. Our body is built to survive and reproduce. If we do not get necessary nutrients our body will tell us we are hungry so that we keep eating until we get the necessary nutrients. In fact, nutrient deficiencies are known in the literature as “hidden hunger.” It is estimated that nearly 2 billion people worldwide suffer from micronutrient deficiencies (2). Making sure we are eating a highly nutrient dense diet is critical.
  3. Emotions are also a driving force behind our cravings. This happens to all of us at some point, but affects some more than others. Ever have a long week at work and come home on a Friday and say “I need a drink after that week.” That is our emotions controlling our cravings. If we constantly reach for food for an emotional boost, eventually it will become a habit. Once it becomes a habit it can become our main way to deal with our emotions. This can be a difficult habit to break and can require quite a bit of hard work to overcome it.
  4. Food shares another commonality with drugs in that it can cause physical cravings. A physical craving is defined as when a person eats a food they, then want to eat more of that food when they initially did not intend to. It also is defined as having a greater urge to eat it when deprived of it for a period of time. If we have a dopamine deficiency, eat sugar and get the subsequent dopamine burst we can become addicted to sugar. Over time, just like with drug addiction, we will need more and more of that food to elicit the same response. This is a nice setup for continuous weight gain

It is not easy to avoid our trigger foods. They are constantly around us and easy to get. However, through identification of problem areas in our lifestyle, help from a Qualified Health Professional (such as a Nutritionist) and hard work we can overcome them and achieve the health we deserve.

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