If you eat the typical American diet that is fraught with massive amounts of added sugars, fats, salt, preservatives and chemicals, you have unwittingly programmed your brain to crave unhealthy foods.
A Vicious Cycle of Chemically Induced Highs and Lows
Simply stated, you have essentially trained your brain to desire junk food to get “high” from the stimulation and reward process that takes place in the brain when you satisfy your cravings. When you give in to your urges for certain foods, pleasure-related chemicals are released in the brain, such as opioids and dopamine. They reward you by elevating your mood, putting “pep in your step,” and bringing on feelings of euphoria. In addition, when you eat a lot of sweets or drink a sugary beverage, you may experience a “sugar high” or “rush” from sudden spikes in your blood sugar levels. The foods you eat also influence your levels of serotonin, a hormone that regulates mood and disposition. In addition, your sensory memories and chemically induced satisfaction from eating your guilty pleasures reinforce and perpetuate the continued patterns of behavior.
However, these “highs” are short-lived. As your body works to digest and metabolize the countless unnatural substances in processed foods and to balance your blood sugar spikes, you will feel the opposite effects. Suddenly, you are struggling to keep your eyes open and have little energy or motivation. That’s when you reach for another soda or start to crave a candy bar, and the vicious cycle continues.
Food Cravings are Comparable to Drug Addiction Cravings
Strong food cravings have been compared to drug addiction because both behaviors follow similar neural pathways. Neurologically, the pleasure and reward feelings you get from satisfying your food cravings aren’t much different than those of drug addicts who satisfy their cravings by doing drugs to get high.
The intensity of cravings is often affected by psychological and emotional factors as well. Mood studies have found that one’s emotional state can have a greater impact on food cravings than actual hunger itself.
A Constant Barrage on Your Body
Constantly eating unhealthy foods barrages your body with all sorts of harmful substances. Your digestive and immune systems continuously struggle to metabolize and filter out the good stuff (like proteins, vitamins and minerals) from the bad stuff in order to absorb and utilize the good nutrients, maintain your immune response, and get rid of waste.
But unfortunately, not all the bad stuff gets eliminated. Excess fats end up getting stored in your body, which leads to a whole host of other problems. Excess cholesterol in your bloodstream causes plaque to build up on arterial walls, which can block blood flow and form clots that can lead to a stroke or heart attack. Additionally, consuming a poor diet constantly puts your kidneys and liver through the paces as they work to maintain a proper balance and rid your body of toxins and excess sugars, fats, salt, waste, etc.
13 Tips on How to Stop Food Cravings
The real question is how to stop food cravings? For many people, controlling their cravings and eating healthy is a constant daily battle. But there are some things you can do to help curb food cravings and reprogram your brain not to have such strong urges for certain foods.
Here are some suggestions on how to stop food cravings:
- Have just a taste. Allow yourself to have just a taste of the treat you desire. For instance, eat one small cookie instead of four, or have just one square of dark chocolate instead of eating the whole bar in one sitting. For best results, keep your treat under 150 calories per serving and allow yourself one serving per day or less. By enjoying just a small portion of the snack you’re craving, you’ll be less likely to feel deprived, and you might find that just a taste is all you need to feel satisfied.
- Chew gum. Research has shown that chewing gum can help curb cravings for sweets, so keep some gum on hand and pop a stick in your mouth whenever a sugar craving strikes.
- Get up and move around. When the urge to eat something strikes, instead of giving in and sitting there eating Bon Bons, get up and move around. Take a walk, ride a bike, do some yard work, do some housework, etc. Just get away from the refrigerator or the pantry or wherever your sweets are stashed. Removing yourself from the situation and changing your focus may be all you need to take your mind off your sweet tooth and onto something more productive.
- Eat meals on schedule. Waiting too long between meals may set you up for snacking on unhealthy foods. Instead, schedule your meals so you eat about every five hours or so. This will help you maintain steady blood sugar levels and help you avoid impulsive eating habits.
- As soon as a food craving strikes, drink a glass of water. Some people find it helps to drinking water immediately when a craving starts. It also helps to fill your stomach, making you feel less hungry.
- Identify where your craving is coming from. Are you really hungry or do you want to eat for emotional reasons or because you are stressed out? Eating when you are upset or stressed will only compound your problems and raise your stress level even more. The first step is to identify the real source of your cravings so you can stop unhealthy patterns of behavior. If your cravings are hunger-based but it’s not your regular meal time, reach for a protein bar or drink a protein shake to tide you over.
- Make healthier food choices. If you crave something sweet, reach for an apple instead of a cookie. The natural sugar in fruit can satisfy your desire for sugar. If you’re craving something salty, choose lightly salted whole-wheat crackers or baked chips instead of greasy potato chips or a bag of cheese puffs. Or, try combining sweets with a healthy snack, for instance, eat a handful of almonds with some chocolate chips. Combining healthy foods with a sweet treat will help satisfy your sugar cravings and also give you some extra nutrients and fiber.
- Drink coffee or tea. People often crave sweets when they are simply tired and need an energy boost. In this case, try drinking a cup of coffee or tea to get energized and for a little extra hydration.
- If chocolate is your guilty pleasure, eat dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa beans because it contains the most flavonols, antioxidants and polyphenols, which have protective effects against inflammation and cardiovascular problems. According to experts, eating about 6½ grams of dark chocolate per day—which is about one-half of a candy bar per week—is the ideal amount to gain the health benefits from dark chocolate. Milk chocolate (which typically contains about 10% cocoa beans) and white chocolate (which is actually not chocolate at all because it contains no cocoa beans) offer no health benefits, so stick with dark chocolate.
- Make sure you get plenty of sleep. The reason for your cravings may just be that you are tired and need to get more sleep or better quality of sleep. Experts say the ideal amount of sleep per night for most people is about 7 hours.
- Make sure your diet contains all the essential nutrients your body requires. A balanced, nutritious diet includes protein, iron, whole grains, healthy carbohydrates, and plenty of whole, natural fruits and vegetables. If you chronically crave sugar or salt, it could be a sign that your diet is unbalanced or deficient in certain vitamins, minerals or other important nutrients. Examine your diet and make necessary changes, and take an all-natural multivitamin such as Healthy Choice Naturals Full Spectrum Daily Multiple. It provides you with 56 vitamins, minerals, herbs, foods and other nutrients, including complexes of fruits, vegetables and digestive enzymes.
- Use your willpower and stick to it! Tap into your inner strength and willpower, and stop giving in to your cravings. Remind yourself that you’d rather have a healthy body than eat harmful foods that will make you feel bad soon after eating them and could lead to health problems in the future.
- To help suppress your appetite and gain an extra edge if you are trying to lose weight, take a natural Garcinia supplement, such as Healthy Choice Naturals Garcinia Max 1600. This all-natural garcinia cambogia supplement contains Hydroxycitric Acid (HCA) extracted from the rind of the garcinia fruit for its powerful weight loss benefits. Each daily serving of Healthy Choice Naturals Garcinia Max 1600 is standardized to contain 1600 mg of pure garcinia cambogia with 50% HCA. For centuries, the people of Southeast Asia have used the garcinia cambogia fruit for its health benefits as an appetite suppressant and for its support of optimum serotonin and cortisol levels, which are keys to controlling your food cravings, mood, stress level and, ultimately, your weight management results.
Once you replace your junk food cravings with more positive thoughts about eating healthier and living a healthier lifestyle, you’ll be able to turn down foods that don’t offer you any health benefits. You can still treat yourself to delicious foods—just choose healthier alternatives than the junk foods you’re used to eating. Before you know it, your battle with how to stop food cravings will be ancient history and will be a thing of the past.