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  • Writer's pictureDr Susan Baxter

Suz…. How can I banish cravings?

Updated: Mar 3, 2023

One minute you are listening intently to your colleague or writing your latest report when….. you are caught by the clutches of remembering the toberlone in you filing cabinet.

You didn’t even know it was there until just this moment. In fact, yesterday if you took a lie detector test and said there was no chocolate in your filing cabinet, you would have passed. But somehow your memory has implanted the desire to eat said chocolate, and the rest is a blur but you do have chocolate on your nose.

Willpower…? Is that the problem?

Apparently not. Strong food cravings could in fact be the result of other triggers, and the result (physiologically) of eating these rich foods is the feel-good chemicals released to your brain such as dopamine. Dopamine makes you have a sense of euphroia, and your brain wants more of that…. regardless of hunger.

Here are some things that I think you should consider…. and until you consider that…. put the “death by chocolate” cake down.

1. Am I sleepy? Grehlin, the hunger hormone can increase by 30%, and drop the release of leptin by 18%, (the satiety hormone) In a University of Chicago study just from a few sleepless nights! In fact, cravings for foods like cookies and bread increased in each participant by 45% just by these few nights alone. Instead, try to catch up on your sleep: nap or make arrangements for a longer sleep. Also aim to have a little caffeine to boost your alertness. Also, portion your food, and ensure that you do not eat whilst distracted.

2. Am I stressed? Stress causes your body to release the hormone cortisol, which signals your brain to seek rewards. Therefore when you condition yourself to eat something when you are tired/or angry or sad, you strengthen the association between eating and this condition (the emotion). face that emotion again, and the brain goes…. hand me the brownie! Instead, why not address the emotion? Eating your feelings actually won’t make any difference to the situation. What you are really craving is to feel better, so instead, listen to some music or have a nice walk. It might not work if you are feeling lonely (to go on a walk alone), but finding a more productive activity that releases it is important. Remember… on your interests and hobbies, “eating” is not usually one you include.

3. Am I eating enough? Eating less than your basal metabolic rate (perhaps 1200 calories) or cutting out food groups like carbohydrates is a recipe for cravings (according to research from the University of Toronto). Three days of dropped calories decrease leptin (the hormone responsible for reducing appetite) by almost a quarter! According to research from the Scientific journal appetite, those that restrict their eating tend to be 1-2 BMI points higher than their non-restricted peers. It also can lead to food obsessions and binge eating. Instead, aim to look at portion control, and try not to ban foods. Simply practice moderation. If you eat some cake now, you probably shouldn’t have the muffin at afternoon tea too.

Whatever you do…. do not try to curb cravings with alternatives. You won’t be satisfied and you are more likely to overeat in terms of calories, compared to simply having the bite of cake you desired.

4. Am I only eating because of habit? The brain and body enjoy routine. So if you have conditioned yourself to associate Friday nights with fish and chips and sweets with movies. Did you know that not having the food with the condition (such as your sweets at the movies) actually triggers the fear receptors in your brain (in the amygdala). When you eat that first sweetie, the fear is released in a split second. Instead, try to re-learn the environment and perhaps have a hot beverage instead. Or distract from the situation by perhaps watching a movie at home and answering emails to train yourself. Create an association with your healthy future, and tell yourself to wait for dinner time/after the movie. Also eliminate (at the start) sensory cues, such as the smell of popcorn or the crunch of potato chips.

5. Am I less busy? The reason I mention this is because, often people that lead busy lives have conditioned themselves to think…. each break = food. That is fine when you are busy (and great that you regularly are having food on your breaks). however, it can spell disaster if you go on a holiday, or simply mean weekends become an eating frenzy. Instead: remind yourself about the frequency that you are eating. Sit down and have a proper meal, and then do something for a few hours before even going near your pantry.

Now, do you want the brownie???

I have another post on cravings here and some of the reasons why you aren't losing weight here.

If you like what you read, I do have a series of Ebooks you can find here. I have designed these to inform and educate with real no-nonsense information about how to live a sustainably healthy life long term. It is the tool kit and knowledge that you need to make your own informed decisions for long-term health.

Thank you for reading.

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