Cravings for food increase after a period of food restriction and/or nutrient depletion. That’s why diets almost always lead to binging.
Processed foods are engineered with portions of fat, sugar and salt so that the reward properties are much greater than traditional whole foods, making them super addictive.
Consider items such as ice cream, burgers, candy, melted cheeses, buttery/oily sauces, and so on – these are the foods that stimulate the release of opioids and dopamine in the brain and have addictive potential (note: artificial sweeteners can even trigger a dopamine response).
Rodent studies confirm this: Rats are unlikely to binge on normal rat chow. But when given the option of sweeter and fattier rat chow, rats go on a bender.
Think about the foods you might be addicted too — Your Trigger Foods. Everyone is unique & have different response to different foods. Be mindful about how you respond to foods. Ask yourself:
- What foods do you crave?
- What foods do you think about you aren’t physically hungry?
- What foods do you want to eat more of, even when you’re full?
- What foods do you typically deprive yourself of — but later, feel unable to control yourself around?
- What foods have emotional associations for you — say, foods you remember from childhood, or foods that seem to have “special powers” to make you feel better?
Food availability and environment
If you feel out of control with certain foods or in certain situations, you probably are.
Our behaviour depends heavily on habits. We can adjust our behaviour by adjusting cues from our routine and environment.
For example, when I quit smoking I had to stop drinking coffee because I couldn’t have a coffee without intense cravings for a cigarette.
Having your trigger foods readily available is going to make it super hard to resist. Studies show that availability is a lead factor in food addiction.
How do I Manage my Cravings?
“Willpower” helps, but it’s weak compared to structural and foundational changes.
My clients have found that when they address their nutrient deficiencies, quite often their cravings diminish. This includes things like:
- Increasing water intake. We often mistake signals of dehydration for signals of hunger.
- Adding protein to every meal. Fueling the body with protein & fiber will increase satiety and help control cravings.
- Taking a multivitamin and/or increasing veggies will provide vitamins and minerals to the body, fueling it at the cellar level. For example, a craving for chocolate may indicate a deficiency in magnesium.
- Reducing availability – make your trigger food hard to get. If it’s in your kitchen you’re going to eat it!
- Changing your routine and schedule to favour positive behaviours, and diminish the chances for negative behaviours (which can include things like getting more sleep, seeking out safer situations during “trigger times”, scheduling activities that conflict with the addictive behaviour, etc.)
- Building a support system, getting help from someone to hold you accountable for your actions.
I’d love to help you with food addictions, cravings, fat loss or anything else related to nutrition and fitness.