It is the complexity of the individual that is the key to food cravings, not simply a magical property of the food being craved' - (A. Hill)
Getting the Late Night Munchies
Do you find that no matter how committed you are to healthy eating or weight loss diets, there's a specific time eachevening that you get the 'munchies'?
...and that small square of chocolate or a biscuit or two does nothing to alleviate this craving?
Have you reallystopped to think about this or do you just accept that this is the way it is?
Because it doesn't have to be this way.
If you have eaten sufficient nourishment during the day then a need for food is not what this is about...it rarely is in our society.
What is happening is that there is some other need, some psychological/emotional need that is not being met and because that need is going un-noticed, un-acknowledged or even denied, it is seeping out like water through a crack in a glass, and the more this need goes unmet, the emptier the glass gets, transforming itself into the dreaded 'munchies' or as is more commonly known in this profession - emotional eating or 'putting food on feelings'.
To get to the source of this need often takes some time and exploration but when you finally do acknowledge the true source of this need and take the appropriate steps to get it met then you will notice that the 'munchies' just disappear.
Hunger V Craving
Whilst both hunger and food cravings are caused by the release of certain chemicals in our body, the chemicals and the process of their release are completely different.
Feelings of hunger are produced by the release ofthe hormone ghrelin when our blood sugar and insulin level drops, once we eat and these regulate, another hormone, leptin is released to suppress our appetite. Basically it is our body that is triggering the release of the hormones.
Cravings, on the other hand, are triggered more by the mind. They are much more complex and can be triggered through eating certain kinds of food, through sensory memories and through emotions.
Eating - Have you ever known anyone (other than pregnant women) to crave foods such as celery? Cravings through eating result from eating sugary orfatty foods which release a chemical called opiods into our bloodstream which give feelings of pleasure.The more you eat the more you want.
Sensory memories - this ranges from memories stored deep in the brain from when we were in the womb, to seeing a picture of a chocolatecake or a Macdonald's advertin a magazine. Sensory memories trigger a part of the brain that releases the hormone dopamine, also producing a feel good factor that has been described as similar to that of a drugaddiction in that the more you feed this craving the more you need to keep your craving at bay.
Emotions - Studies on mood have found that our emotional state normally has a greater impact on cravings than hunger [source: Hill 2007]. What this means is that there is a direct correlation between our emotions and our cravings. The hormone seratonin, also known as the 'happy hormone' is released in response tobalanced emotions, supporting our continued emotional stability. If our mood is low or negative then the release of seratonin is restricted and thehigher the chance of us having cravings, especially if our diet too is not particularly healthy.
So you can see from this small excerpt how complex and individual cravings are and how, more often than not, it is cravings that get in the way of people maintaining a diet or healthy eating regime, especially in theearly stages.
Tips on Dealing with Cravings
- Don't deprive yourself- a little of what you fancy, occasionally, will satisfy the craving.
- Vary your diet - boredom and anxiety with what you're eating contributes tocraving.
- If you are someone that needs to snack then make sure that wherever you go you have some healthy snacks with you e.g. fruit, nuts
- Less emotional stress and more balance in your life will not only reduce cravings but support you in maintaining a healthier diet.
- The more fat your body has the more cravings you are likely to experience, losing body fatwill reduce the cravings.
- Become conscious of your cravings. When they occur sit and notice what's happening.
- Journal about the cravings - How often do you get them? Is it a regular time/day? What triggers them? If you look deeper than the food, what is it that you are really craving for - what is the food a cover up for?
- There are many factors to cravings - each are unique to you as an individual, working with a coach/therapist to explore yours will empower you to make better choices.