Ever had a food craving? Home made chocolate chip cookies are the best!!! A big fat cheesy slice of pizza? Food cravings have been linked to both physiological and psychological triggers, including nutrient deficiencies, lack of sleep, PMS, emotional status and stress, and even the sight or smell of food. Food cravings can dominate our thoughts.. constantly thinking about that particular food until you consume it!!! Strong cravings can actually interfere with reaction time and working memory capacity!Dopamine is released- In technical terms, they say that your behavior has been reinforced. What you experience is that the sensory cues of the situation, such as its appearance, sounds, smells, tastes, and location, become motivational triggers that ignite your desire to repeat your previous behavior. The larger the surge of dopamine, the more motivated you will be the next time you encounter those cues. This is well illustrated by highly addictive drugs like crack cocaine and methamphetamine, which cause an immense release of dopamine that motivates drug-seeking behaviors so strongly that they can supersede constructive behaviors like eating, sleeping, holding a job, and maintaining personal relationships. Addiction, at its core, is a very strong craving. (1)
Combating cravings isn’t an easy task. Resisting seems to only increase the desire to tear into a chocolate bar or to rationalize with self-talk and grab a chocolate flavored protein bar at the gym check-in counter. There are multiple approaches to consider to this challenge, including:
**Exercising can decrease food cravings, which is a positive for those combining efforts of exercise and diet for weight loss. This was shown in both fit and obese women performing 45 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise in a recent study from Brigham Young University (2)
Mindfulness Eating Strategies- When eating, pay attention to internal cues such the taste of the food, hunger sensations, thoughts and feelings about eating, stress level and emotions. Mindfulness interventions can reduce the strong pull of food cravings.
Don’t Give In, or Maybe Just a Little- suggested that portion size and the frequency of giving into craved foods were important variables to consider for long-term weight loss and lifestyle modifications (3)
Alternative Exchange- Find alternatives or modifications that will appease those cravings. I love chocolate chip cookies , so instead of a chocolate chip I can eat a bowl of strawberries or raspberries with some sugar free chocolate syrup and a serving of whip cream!
Give this a try next time you have cravings!
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2.Hanlon B, Larson MJ, Bailey BW, Lecheminant JD. Neural response to pictures of food after exercise in normal-weight and obese women. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2012:44(10):1864-1870
3.Gilhooly CH, Das SK, Golden JK, et al. Food cravings and energy regulation: the characteristics of craved foods and their relationship with eating behaviors and weight change during 6 months of dietary energy restriction. International Journal of Obesity, 2007:(31):1849-1858.