Food cravings are real! While hunger produces physical sensations such as stomach growling, lightheadedness and weakness that signals your body for the need of fuel, food cravings are an intense desire for a specific food choice. Normal hunger can be satisfied with a variety of foods while a craving can only be satisfied with a specific food, normally a sweet.
With that in mind, could there be a physiological component to cravings? The answer is yes. It is not all about will power. Neurochemicals and hormones play a large part in hunger, cravings, fullness and satiety.
There are over seventy neurochemicals that have been identified that play a role in memory, appetite and mood. A few of them you may have heard of such as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. In addition to these neurochemicals, hormones also play an important part in cravings, hunger and satiety. They include insulin, cortisol, and leptin plus many more.
Let take a closer look at insulin. This is a hormone that is produced by the pancreatic cells and is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. Since blood sugar is probably the single most important factor controlling appetite and mood, insulin is a key player in causing food cravings.
When we eat carbohydrates they are reduced to simple sugars. These sugars enter our blood stream and trigger an insulin release. The more refined foods containing ‘simple carbohydrates’, such as Dr. Clarks six C’s, lead to a quick release of insulin followed by a rapid drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) that triggers an intense need (craving) for more carbohydrates.
To eliminate or minimize this physiological aspect of cravings try:
Controlling your blood sugar swings by eating protein every few hours, at every meal as well as for snacks. Keeping your carbohydrate levels below or equal to your protein levels will help.
Avoiding those crunchy 6 C’s as well as rice, pasta, bread and potato. These can raise your blood sugars fairly quickly.
Carrying protein-based snacks with you at all times. Never let yourself become famished.
Adding the mineral chromium picolinate has shown to be useful in curbing cravings.
Exercise helps get your mind off thinking about foods as well as utilize those excess sugars in your blood stream.
Giving yourself a fifteen minute timeout. Wait about fifteen minutes to see if the craving goes away.
You know the benefits of being active. You own the shoes and the clothes. You may even have a membership to the gym. What’s missing? It might be more than motivation, it sounds like you may need an attitude adjustment!
Start by thinking of yourself as an active person—perception often turns into reality. Exercise has a way of increasing positive beliefs while decreasing negative ones. The snowball gets bigger and starts rolling faster—you get the idea.
It’s time to put yourself first again. It was normal as a toddler and easy as a teenager but this time it is a conscious decision to block out some time for yourself to do something for you. The hours that you spend working out are an investment in your own health & wellbeing. Exercise increases your overall energy level as well as reducing stress and building lean body mass, just to name a few of the good things. But did you realize that it also improves your mood? You could be healthier and happier all at the same time. And research indicates that it works with any type of exercise that you enjoy. Need I go on?
Now make a list of all the activities that you have enjoyed in the past and any that you would like to try. Put 2 of them on the schedule for each week. Yes, it’s December and everyone is busy but you’ll be glad that you took a couple of hours out of the 168 available to do something that is good for you! Who knows, you may want to add another one or two when you see how good it feels.
Once you have established the routine of lacing up your tennis shoes and heading out the door, you won’t require quite as much thinking.
On second thought, don’t think about it—’Just Do It’! Nike may own the trademark but you can use it to turn your “I really should” into “I did it!”