Your food cravings are hedonic! Yes, you crave chocolate because you LOVE IT! 

Sure Ghiradelli’s might be a great source of magnesium, but pumpkin seeds are an even better source ounce for ounce… more than double that of chocolate! Same thing for cheese and fatty foods. Please think beyond the usually suspected, “calcium deficiency,” since your body didn’t crave exceptionally rich green sources of calcium, such as collard greens or seeds! 

Overall, the popularized account of cravings as elicited by specific nutritional need is having to give way to a more subtle and complex appreciation of human eating behaviour.

The Psychology of Food Craving, A.J. Hill

Look, I love chocolate and cheese too. Let’s be clear; I’m not picking on these foods. Who doesn’t love chocolate and cheese? Throw in a glass of wine and you have yourself the trifecta! So, “NO,” I am not throwing these foods or even those who have true deficiencies under the bus. Seriously, I was B12 deficient for a good year or more when I became more plant based. OUCH! That was a hard lesson to learn!

True deficiencies are real. The data points to a silently growing American malnutrition epidemic. It’s alive and real. Truly micronutrient deficiency is not a hot topic in our Country, and it should bewith an estimated 85% of Americans lacking essential vitamins. This flies in the face of 97% of women and 68% of men reporting cravings but not eating kale, spinach, collard greens or seeds! Instead, chips, cookies, subs, fries (seriously, waffle fries and soda are Chick-Fil-A’s top selling “foods!) are the mainstays of the Standard American Diet, but it would be crazy talk to say waffle fry cravings are because you lack nutrients!”

With such a high malnutrition rate and high cravings, you’d anticipate everyone running to the nearest produce stand!

And now we come full circle. If most Americans are overfed but undernourished, then that a magnesium deficiency would send you running to one of the richest sources…pumpkin seeds! Same thing for calcium…I don’t see many racing to the stove to prepare a beautiful pan of lightly sauteed collard greens.

Makes you wonder, right? …Of course, these issues are what I help you sort out in my health coaching programs! But I digress….

Unless you are pregnant mother, an avid athlete, practicing a specific diet that eliminates food groups, or an animal coming out of hibernation and in need of certain nutrients, you are likely craving food to satisfy EMOTIONAL NEEDS or LIFESTYLE IMBALANCES.

Please set aside any previous media that might have led you in a different direction. As always, I’m just shooting straight with ya in the name of healthful practices!

Certainly you crave water and food when you are dehydrated, but there is growing evidence that cravings are more times than not the result of lifestyle imbalances, and usually pleasure centered. Yes, Vitamin P rules the day, once again!

MOST COMMON REASONS FOR FOOD CRAVINGS:

  1. A restrictive, perfect, or monotonous diet. If you are food prepping the heck out of your life with the same old “stuff” each day, you are likely going to go crazy with your monotonous diet! When we allow our daily lives be controlled by perfection or a perpetual feeling of being good to be healthy by eating the same foods we’ve “deemed healthy,” cravings increase and health is derailed!
  2. Hormonal changes. When chemistry shifts, think PMS or pregnancy, these changes can shift our taste and smell receptors and cause cravings for comfort food, or foods that up the “happy hormone.” Did I mention that pleasure rules the day? Sadly, hormone receptors dull the pleasure of happy, comfort foods over time, so each bite of chocolate from day to day or month to month doesn’t have the same effect. And, an addiction is born! We are creatures of habit that are driven by pleasure sensors.
  3. Sleep and stress. When our basic needs of sleep and stress are lacking, the two hormones that control hunger and appetite, ghrelin and leptin are also thrown into a tailspin. It becomes impossible to sense true hunger and to monitor when you are truly full.
  4. You eat too much all day long. A study using smartphones tracked the eating habits of non-dieting Americans. Surprisingly, most individuals eat more than 15 hours daily with only 25% of calories before noon, and a very short fasting period of 9 hours or less. What’s more, most of those individuals ate up to and sometimes MORE THAN 15 times daily!
  5. Your life is imbalanced; you’ve “lost your power!” We have long believed cravings were nutritional deficiencies. And that can most definitely be the case. But, that’s not the whole story! More and more research sheds light on the more complex scenario that most cravings are rooted in an emotional, motivational, or compensatory state of feeling stressed and out of control that drives a certain craving. Researchers found that even when nutritional needs were satisfied, subjects brains lit up when asked to think about the taste, smell, or texture of their favorite foods. It was the same three parts of the brain that are engaged with drug addiction…memory and pleasure are satisfied! We look to food emotionally to manage a hard life. Let’s face it..Eating a bag of M and M’s is significantly easier than dealing with difficult children!

Dieting or restrained eating generally increase the likelihood of food craving while fasting makes craving, like hunger, diminish. Attempted restriction or deprivation of a particular food is associated with an increase in craving for the unavailable food.

The Psychology of Food Craving, A.J. Hill

BEST WAYS TO CONQUER CRAVINGS

  • Use Variety! Include diverse food groups and please don’t practice starvation or deprivation 24/7! Willpower is not sustainable, and when certain foods are “off-limits” they quickly get added to the “cravings list.” And back to those dark leafies, truly bitter greens are highly effective to reduce (sugar) cravings! Go eat a kale salad!
  • Be Imperfect!Instead of aiming for perfection and 100% goodness, try including something that feels a little less healthy in your daily life. And it doesn’t have to be food! Try sleeping in, skip the gym for a day, or ignore your mom’s phone call (just today)! You’ll be surprised at how much more you feel in control, fulfilled, and a little more authentic in your life!… And your long-term health will thank you!
  • Seek out new pleasure routines and stand in your power!When you add Vitamins L and P back into your life you begin to gain balance, perspective, and power into your day. Consider this, if you are happy with who you are and the direction you are headed in life, chocolate isn’t nearly appealing. Take back your power! Chocolate, soda, fries, cheese, and wine don’t own you! Seriously, this is what I help you to do as your health coach.
  • Get added sleep and practicecalming activities. Yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques modulate these ultra important health, weight loss, and food craving hormones.
  • Reduce Daily Eating and Fasting Time. From the smartphone study, subjects who experienced the greatest weight loss/craving reduction decreased their eating time to approximately 10 hours each day (7:00 – 5:00 for example) with a greater fasting time (5:00 – 7:00). Eat whole, real foods when you are hungry and become a mindful eater to eat ONLY WHEN YOU ARE HUNGRY, scaling back to 3 daily meals with 2 whole food snacks (not eating the 15 times noted in the study).

If you are drowning in the vast sea of nutritional confusion, you’re not alone! In my 6 month private health coaching programs, we will work together to identify your personal health goal and the lifestyle to support it! No confusion! It starts with a thoughtful conversation. Are you ready?