Dear Stomach, You’re bored, not hungry So Shut Up!
We have all been here! The pint of ice cream, the chocolate chip cookies, the liters of soda taunting you from the kitchen counter. Yet, is it the actual food that is pestering you? NO! it is the CRAVINGS!
We all have them, yet do we really understand why? Better yet, do we know how to curb them? I have struggled and failed miserably being controlled by my cravings! What about you?
You probably are already aware that cravings are not a result of being hungry. But you may not be aware of how these damn things work. Cravings have a biological and a psychological influence.
The most common foods we crave are sugar, carbs, chocolate, salt and for some, cheese. First, let’s walk through the main causes of these cravings, and this will give us a better understanding of why this happens!:)
5 Causes of Food Cravings
What the hell is Leptin? Well, Leptin is a hormone in our bodies that produce in our fat tissues. Its primary job is to stimulate your appetite and also tell us when you’re full. Clearly, mine is not working! This works harmoniously when our brains and stomachs are on the same page. But, it doesn’t work that way when constant surges of leptin trick your brain into feeling hungry even when you are not. Why does this happen? Well, one culprit is having too much body fat-more fat means more leptin produced. Simple enough.
Another cause is eating a diet high in sugary foods and processed crap. The sugar triggers fat cells which releases leptin. Whatever it may be, constant surges of leptin can lead to leptin resistance.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is the best way to keep a normal balance of leptin in your body.
Most have heard of this incredible neurotransmitter. Yet, did you know that it is mainly produced within, none other than, the gastrointestinal (GI) tract? It is directly tied to our mood, appetite, and digestion. *Mind Blown*
This is a pretty important one. I have witnessed this one in action quite often especially in children who have eaten high carbohydrate and sugar products. When we consume these foods our mood increases for a short while. Then we come crashing down causing our brain to think
“I need more!”
Low serotonin can also be caused by poor gut health, alcohol consumption, depression(which can go hand in hand with many of these others), anxiety and OCD. You know what I am talking about! How often do you feel crumby and you want that comfort food? Or you convince yourself that it is okay to eat because you are feeling down and out?
Moving right along!
This is another big word, what does this have to do with cravings? First off, endorphins are basically opiates that help us relax. Eating sugary foods and especially salt increases the production of this hormone. When we eat these foods we experience a relaxing feeling. Obviously, we crave more! And with this, it can create addictions.
There have been recent studies that sugar can actually have more intense feelings of reward than cocaine. Clearly, this is not good. No wonder we have such issues with Obesity and mental illnesses. They are all closely related to food addiction. There have been many studies also indicating the addictive qualities of foods found in highly processed foods can cause addictive eating because of the rapid rate absorption.
The more you can avoid packaged and processed foods, the more control you’ll have over your food choices.
Previously mentioned, serotonin levels are directly linked to cravings, and your gut is the epicenter of serotonin production. Unfortunately, in order to maintain those feel-good levels of serotonin, your gut needs to be in impeccable shape! This allows you to absorb nutrients from your food and pump out serotonin through your GI tract. Only this act is based on having a gut that is healthy with a proper balance of good bacteria.
This one is the big kahuna! All emotions can prompt you to peruse the pantry! Who doesn’t want to bundle up on the couch and mow down some chips, cookies, and ice cream when you break up? Most cravings often disappear within an hour, choosing a healthier option or even better choosing an activity you enjoy may give you just what you needed!
Now that you understand a bit more about where these cravings begin, let’s discuss some ways to stop them!
5 Tips for Tackling Food Cravings
- Drink water. I am so sick of hearing people say “I don’t like water” Well, that is just stupid.. We are made up of 80% water. For our organs to function, you must be drinking roughly half your body weight in ounces DAILY. Do the math! Literally, thirst and dehydration make you feel hungry. Once you consume more water this will help control your hunger.
- Avoid sugary foods and processed carbs. Clearly, this is one I have been stressing greatly throughout this article. Avoid these as much as possible. I am not saying you cannot enjoy your sweet indulgences, just whip them up with lower amounts of sugar, higher fiber, and higher protein ingredients! Examples of these are dark chocolate (yay), almond flour, cassava flour, and bean flour. These will not trigger cravings and feed an appetite that just won’t quit.
- Exercise and plenty of rest. Within our society we are so high strung and exhausted. Truly not a great combination. Sometimes as we come home from our stressful days of work we head straight to the kitchen to seek out comfort and relax. Rather than relying on frenchfries and Oreos to help us relax, go for a short walk or go to bed earlier! These habits produce endorphins that are just like Hershey Kisses. If you do choose to exercise it boosts your serotonin levels. Any time I choose yoga, hiking or weightlifting I never want to ruin it with crap foods.
- Meditation and daily sunshine. Taking a few minutes, even at lunch, to get some fresh air and quiet your mind also boosts your serotonin levels. I know personally when I walk outside and the sun is shining a feeling of peace rushes over me. Meditation doesn’t have to be a complete silence either. I use journaling as my meditation as well as listening to music and just staying still!
- Avoid trigger foods for 21 days. It has been stated that 21 days is how long it takes for a habit to form. Clearly, we have enforced bad habits and now need to tough through 21 days without our trigger foods. You will be fine! Find healthier options to grab when you’re craving. Great choices are low-glycemic smoothies and desserts, fresh berries, guacamole or hummus with veggies, rice cakes or raw cashews.
Does this mean you cannot have your favorite treats anymore?
No Way! Yet, if you feel like your food cravings are running your life, take back control by understanding them more.
Do you have any tips for overcoming your cravings? Comment below because others may be in the same predicament that you are and could use your help! Oh! And another thing: brush and floss your teeth. It helps train your brain that you are done eating when your mouth feels all squeaky clean!