Food cravings are deceptively complex. For people who have never struggled with compulsive eating, it seems simple. Just don’t eat it. Just keep it out of your house. Simply avoid it. Foods, particularly those with fat, sugar and salt, are satisfying on a physical, emotional and psychological level. We create powerful associations with food and the soothing or energizing effect it has on us. They create chemical reactions within us and further solidify the strong neuropathways we create in our brains. Often, once a craving takes hold, it can feel impossible to escape until we have the food item we desire. There are a few things that can help reduce cravings:
- Keep stress in check. Nothing sets off the desire to eat like stress. Food actually helps us calm down physically and provides a sense of escape temporarily. By managing stress overall, you can prevent yourself from reaching for food in times of vulnerability.
- When we don’t get enough sleep, our hunger and fullness hormones are out of whack. Ghrelin is very high when we don’t get enough sleep, so we seek out the energy we should be getting in sleep through food. Also, Leptin, which tells our bodies we have had enough food and gives us the green light to burn fat, is low. We actually produce Leptin during REM sleep, so if we aren’t going through enough REM cycles, we don’t produce sufficient Leptin.
- When we become dehydrated, our blood sugar becomes more concentrated which causes frequent urination and causes further dehydration. Dehydration also makes it difficult for organs to release glucose which can lead to sugar cravings.
- Eat frequently. When you wait too long between meals to eat, your blood sugar can plummet leading to food cravings. It also leads us to overeat because our body wants to get as much energy as possible in a short period of time.
- Everything in moderation. By using Intuitive Eating skills, you balance food choices because nothing is off limits. When you truly listen to your body’s needs instead of your brain, balanced eating becomes much easier. If no food is off limits, we don’t go off the rails when we eat.