Saturday, March 7, 2015

Food cravings: Why you have them; How to beat them

Why do you have food cravings? Not genuine hunger, signaling that your digestive tract is ready for more, but craving for a particular kind of, or a very specific food.

If you've struggled with weight issues, you may be quick to blame yourself and your "will power" -- after which you will probably beat yourself up, and/or say "that's just me; I'll never change."

USA Today health reporter (and nutritionist, fitness expert, and health coach) Yuri Elkaim explains that there are actually a few different reasons for cravings. He posits that "everyone is different – cravings can be caused by one factor or multiple reasons." And here's the good news: One type of craving is a healthy signal from your body, and all of them are changeable.

Here are the three types of cravings he addresses:

1. Simple conditioning. This is where you associate a certain kind of food with a certain event or setting. He uses the example of pizza being associated with home movies. For me, road trips trigger expectations for junk food. (New Year's Eve and summer vacations being the only times in my childhood when my mom freely gave us junk food.) "Once you know the 'why' behind your food cravings," he says, "you can begin to actively fight them. Remind yourself, 'My body doesn’t need this food. I have conditioned myself to crave this food, and I can condition myself to stop.'”

2. Physiological craving. This the type that may actually be your body crying out for more of a certain nutrient. For example, craving salt after a workout may be a signal that your body isn't processing sodium correctly. He recommends testing to get to the bottom of this issue.

3. Food addiction. Yes, here's the uncomfortable truth: we can be emotionally addicted to food. But sometimes, it goes deeper than emotions, actually involving the same areas of the brain that respond to drugs like cocaine and heroin. This topic deserves more explanation, but his summary is accurate: "This isn’t easy, because you will go through a withdrawal process, but it’s critical you stick to it if you want to kick the habit. The good thing is that you only have to do this for about two weeks. "

Those two weeks can be brutal! I can personally testify that after you make it through the withdrawal, cravings subside substantially and it gets much easier to pass up sweets. If, however, you give in and eat something sweet, you're basically setting yourself up to be like this guy:

Don't be that guy! Here's one of the most important things you need to know when you're trying to kick the sugar habit.

The original article at USA Today: This Is Why You Have Food Cravings

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