Get thee behind me!
You know that feeling. It’s 9 o’clock at night and the chocolate cake in the fridge is calling your name. You try not to listen to it, but there it is – “come on, eat me, eat me” – and before you know it you’ve devoured a huge piece and washed it down with a glass of cold milk. Or it’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon and the stress of your project deadline causes you to crave that candy bar you saw in the vending machine earlier. You give in, grab your quarters, run to the machine and before you get back to your seat you’ve eaten the entire candy bar and are licking the chocolate off of your fingers. If it sounds like I’m speaking from experience…I am.
I think most of us can identify with food cravings. They seem to come out of nowhere and, if you’re like me, you rarely crave something that’s healthy. While food cravings are pretty much universal, women tend to have them more than men. One study reported that 100 percent of women experienced them as compared to 70 percent of men. (Ladies, I think the men are lying…I’m just saying.) Men tend to crave foods that are savory and women those that are sweet. However, my husband invariably asks me after dinner, “Have you got anything sweet?” Hmmm.
The Anatomy of Food Cravings
It’s important to understand that food cravings and hunger are different. Hunger is simply your body’s signal that you need to eat, and it begins with a hormone called ghrelin. It signals the brain when our blood sugar and insulin levels have dropped and triggers the release of a chemical which stimulates our appetite. We’re hungry. We need food. After we’ve eaten, another chemical is released that tells our brains that we are full. Unfortunately this doesn’t happen immediately and the results can be an over-stuffed feeling after a big meal. That is stomach hunger in very simple terms.
Food cravings, on the other hand, involve an entirely different part of the body: our minds. I often crave something sweet after I’ve just finished a big meal. Perhaps you do as well. Food cravings have little to do with hunger and aren’t necessary for our survival.
Fatty, high calorie foods top the list of food cravings with chocolate being number one. The reason is that these types of foods release a chemical called opioids (think opium) into our bloodstream. Opioids then bind to receptors in the brain and the results is a feeling of pleasure and sometimes even euphoria (remember the chocolate cake?). Simply put, these types of foods affect the same part of the brain as highly addictive drugs. We become addicted to the foods that give us pleasure. In the article Mind Hunger and Food Cravings, Cristen Conger says, “This type of dopamine stimulation and chemical reward that we obtain from fulfilling food cravings has been compared to drug addiction because both behaviors follow similar neural pathways. The pleasure and reward that we derive are simply milder versions of those that drug addicts experience when they get high.”
How I Overcame My Food Cravings
It can be extremely difficult to overcome food cravings since they are so much like addictions. I am a self-confessed sugar addict. For as long as I can remember I’ve loved sweets, especially chocolate. I used to say “if my arm was chocolate I would eat it” and I meant it! At church pot-luck dinners I would go through the line and get a plate full of savory food, but the whole time I was eyeballing the dessert table making sure they didn’t run out before I got there. Sometimes if I saw a dessert that looked especially decadent I would grab it first! More true confessions.
Since I began my “I Want to Be Healthy” journey in June, I’ve noticed something about my food cravings. For the most part they are gone. In fact, after the first few days of eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods they virtually vanished. Apparently when we fill our bodies with the foods we need we don’t crave junk. I realize I’m being over simplistic, but this worked for me. I made a decision to eat healthy. It was hard to stick to it at first, but I’ve persevered. Once you’ve made the decision, I highly recommend praying. The Lord will help you defeat your cravings.
- Don’t allow junk food in your house. If it’s there you will be tempted to eat it.
- Make sure everyone in your house knows you’ve made a decision to eat healthy.
- Partner with a friend or relative. My daughter and I are doing this together.
- Start a blog to chronicle your journey. That’s what I did and it has really helped me stay on track. If you put it out there for the world to see you’re more likely to stay with it. It will also be an encouragement to others.
The place to overcome your food cravings is in your mind, the same place they began. You must make a conscious choice to change. Think of the word repentance. Repentance is simply a change of heart (mind) that results in a change in your actions. We tend to think of repentance in a negative way, but one person put it this way – repentance is trading trash for treasure. You’re trading the trash of unhealthy food for the treasure of food that is good for you.
You’ve heard the old adage practice makes perfect, but I once heard a teacher say that practice makes permanent – I like that. Practice healthy eating and it will become a permanent part of your life.
Have you overcome food cravings or addictions? I’d love to hear your story. Please feel free to comment.
Healthy, Wealthy and Wise Tips:
“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”Benjamin Franklin, from the 1735 edition of Poor Richard’s Almanack
Healthy Tip (for your body): In one of my earlier posts I shared about how magnesium helped with me foot and leg cramps. It turns out that magnesium helps with cravings by regulating insulin and blood sugar. It also helps with stress and insomnia which can trigger food cravings. Visit this link for other supplements that help with food cravings: Supplements. As always, check with your health care provider before taking any supplements.
Wealthy Tip (for your soul): “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in every way and [that your body] may keep well, even as [I know] your soul keeps well and prospers.” 3 John 1:2 (Amplified)
Wise Tip (for your brain): According to experts if you’re going to take one supplement for your brain it should be DHA. Smaller brain sizes are associated with lower DHA levels. Natural DHA is found in cold-water seafood so it’s important to supplement if you don’t eat much seafood. DHA reduces inflammation and increases blood flow to the brain. Check with your doctor before taking DHA or any supplements.
Bonus Tip (for your outer beauty): I hope you’ve tried my beauty regimen of baking soda, honey and olive oil (see blog “A Clarification of Sorts”). My daughter-in-law uses coconut oil on her face and swears by it. I think I’m going to try it in place of olive oil and see if I like it. If you try it or have tried it on your face let me know if it has worked for you.