Archive for the tag - cravings

Are Food Cravings Psychological?

In the last few weeks, we’ve talked a lot about food cravings – and, in particular, how to eliminate them.

But it hasn’t stopped folks from asking me if our food cravings are the result of nutritional deficiencies. If we’re not getting enough of a particular nutrient, it’s a popular belief that our bodies will crave those foods rich in that nutrient. In other words, if you’re not getting enough Vitamin A in your diet, then the belief is that you might crave carrots.

But that’s exactly why this myth is untrue. When was the last time you craved carrots – or any other vegetable or leafy green? Instead, we crave foods rich in saturated fat, salt or sugar like pizza, milk chocolate, ice cream or cookies. And we certainly don’t need any more of those foods in our diets.

Rather than being associated with nutritional cues, research suggest that cravings are related to a complex mix of social, environmental, physiological and cultural factors. For example, there was a recently-cited study in the Wall Street Journal which found that sushi cravings are more popular in Japan than chocolate cravings.

It’s also been found that food cravings activate the same reward circuits in brains as cravings for drugs and alcohol – and that brain regions associated with memory, emotion and stress all light up during intense cravings. Rather than craving chocolate because of a magnesium deficiency, it’s more likely that your hankering is the result of a screaming boss.

Though it’s a commonly held belief that our cravings are related to nutritional deficiencies, research strongly suggests otherwise. Instead, it seems that cravings are a psychological coping mechanism born from a rich brew of complex factors.

If you need help overcoming cravings, check out my 10 tips for eliminating the munchies.

Does Exercise Curb Your Appetite?

Hunger, appetite and exercise are complex subjects to consider, but we’ve all heard the adage that you can “work up an appetite” after engaging in physical activity. As common as this phrase might be, is there any truth to it?

According to a study by Brigham Young University that will be published in the October issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the immediate answer may be, “No.” On the contrary, exercise may actually curb appetite.

Researchers followed groups of women from various weight ranges to determine the effect of exercise on food cues. On one day, the women walked briskly on a treadmill for 45-minutes – and then had their brainwaves measured as they viewed 240 images of either food or flowers. A week later, the same experiment was conducted without the exercise.

After the exercise, lower brain responses were recorded for the food images versus no exercise. In other words, the act of exercising didn’t just burn more calories – it seemed to turn individuals off (at least in the short term) to eating. Moreover, despite the added energy expense of walking on a treadmill, individuals didn’t actually consume more calories on the exercise day.

Unfortunately, this study doesn’t examine how long the craving-busting effect lasts. And the study doesn’t look at the effect of regular, long-term exercise on the findings. For example, how would these findings differ for an individual that exercises 6x per week – and has been for several years?

Though more research is needed, the findings are particularly important for individuals that struggle with food cravings. This study seems to reinforce the idea that exercise is a great way to reduce or eliminate cravings for unhealthy foods. Craving chocolate? According to this data, going for a walk or jog could help.

Do these findings jive with your personal experience? Let me know in the comments below.

How to Eliminate Late-Night Food Cravings.

Dear Davey,

I’ve been trying to lose weight by proper diet and exercise—but I really need help kicking midnight cravings. If I eat at 7PM, I’m craving snacks by 9 or 10PM. I want to keep my diet on track! Please help!

Thanks,
John

Dear John,

There’s nothing wrong with a little snacking—so long as you are mostly selecting foods that fit into your diet or nutrition program. Whenever I feel like snacking, I opt for a handful of nuts, berries or a piece of fruit.

But if you’re really looking to eliminate cravings, take a good look at your dinner. Meals that are higher in protein, fiber or fats should keep you full longer than carbohydrates. The body digests carbohydrates quickly—proteins, fibers and fats last much longer.

Pasta, for example, is very high in carbohydrates. It may be delicious, but it probably won’t keep you satiated for long. A chicken breast, on the other hand, is loaded with protein—and so it will take the body longer to break it down. You’ll feel fuller, longer. And that should help take the edge off your cravings.

I hope that helps!

Love,
Davey Wavey