Do you find yourself frequently thinking about sweets? Do you feel obligated to finish a whole bag of chips once you start? Do you eat more than you want to? Do you ever feel bad about yourself after eating something?
We are all familiar with food cravings, which are just as real as addictions to cigarettes, cocaine, and alcohol. The cravings drive you towards stress, fatigue, and the need for quick “food” and comfort in the face of long, grueling work hours.
This is summarised in two simple truths:
- Stress leads to food addictions and our food enivronments perpetuate them.
- We are victims of food addiction.
Yes, We are victims and we are all having addictions. Lets take a close look at this.:
- Obsession with (constantly thinks of) the object, activity, or substance
- Seeking out or engaging in the behavior even though it is causing harm (physical problems, poor work or study performance)
- Compulsively engaging in the activity, that is, doing it over and over even if you don’t want to and finding it difficult to stop
Any of these strike a familiar chord?
BIG FOOD is no dummy. Entire research and development teams at major BIG FOOD companies thrive on creating non-food junk with just the right amount of sugar, salt, or fat (or all three rolled into one tasty package) to make us want more and more and more. Not only do these foods feed our biologically driven survival urges, they feed our brain’s pleasure centers. And these companies pay extremely talented chemists to create snacks we’re hardwired to want. In fact, they’re tapping into the very same neurological wiring that is activated in drug addiction!
It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way: How To Break the Addiction Pattern and Gain Food Freedom
We do not have to be slaves to food addictions or to the stress that drives compulsive eating. The key lies in quieting the primitive stress response and resolving stress as quickly as possibly. If we keep our bodies and brains feeling safe, we don’t have to live in a constant state of stress overdrive! The sugar, fat, and salt become less interesting – and when we don’t feel we need them, we stop craving them.
What do we need to prevent stress overdrive? Really, we just need the human basics: good nutrition, adequate rest and sleep, love, and fulfillment. It all comes down to making a healthy lifestyle — which includes engaging in meaningful activities and healthy social connections — a priority. It is in our power and interest to release the unhealthy patterns and build the healthy ones that allow us to break free of food addictions.
Here are 7 helpful solutions to overcome food cravings:
1. Practice stress reduction by Meditation and Chanting.
Even five minutes of mindfulness meditation twice daily can calm your nervous system, help your cortisol levels return to normal, and transform your life . Deep breathe in and out 4 times and see the difference.
2. Practice mindfulness in food choices and while eating.
To do this, simply take a moment before you eat something to really check in with yourself, from a place of centeredness. Ask yourself whether this is optimal for you and take a moment to think about what your body really needs right then. Eat only when you feel relaxed. Eat slowly so that you can enjoy and savor your meals. Food should be one of our great pleasures in life. Mindful eating can help you break free from the grip of food addictions and feel better about your choices so that you can enjoy eating once again.
3. Keep your blood sugar balanced.
Blood sugar balancing is a key to alleviating food cravings. Eat a healthy breakfast with a good quality protein every day. Eat only nutrient rich foods, emphasizing proteins, high quality fats, and vegetables. Sugar sends your body on a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. The lows (hypoglycemia) trigger your brain, which depends on sugar for energy, to think you are in a state of emergency and causes your stress response to get activated full tilt boogie. Stable blood sugar = stable stress hormones, smoother emotions, and healthy weight.
4. Keep your fridge and pantry health friendly.
Simple logic: If you only have healthy food choices, you’re more likely to eat well.
5. Optimal nutrient intake will help with satiety.
If your body isn’t getting the nutrients you need, you will crave more and more food as your body tries to get the nutrition you are really craving. This takes you back to points 2, 3, and 4 above. Taking a good multivitamin and mineral can also provide missing ingredients for optimal health.
6. Sleep well.
This means getting 7 to 8 hours each night. Less than this also leads to activation of the stress response and increased cortisol levels. We’ve all experienced fatigue leading to sugar cravings. Back to the same vicious cycle of stress, cravings, weight gain and so on.
7. Find ways to feel full other than food.
Sometimes feelings of emptiness, sadness, loneliness or boredom can also activate our stress response and trigger hormones and chemicals in our brains that stimulate cravings – a need to fill ourselves. Since fat, sugar, and salt “feed” us when we are in a stress response, calming the anxiety that arises when we feel fight-or-flight feelings, or depression, these are what we tend to crave when we feel empty emotionally. Tending and mending the broken parts of us is part of becoming whole and healthy.
Love yourself, Love your body.