Do you remember the last time you had a craving? For me, it was for a chocolate chip cookie and boy was it intense! My brain acted how an impatient toddler gets; mom, mom, mom, mommy, momma, mom, MOM! For the love, child! Relentless!
Maybe you’ve experienced that same overpowering, out of control feeling yourself. Did you feel like if you didn’t answer the craving you were going to lose your mind? Like an itch that must be scratched! If I were going to have a craving, why couldn’t it be something that was at least healthy for me like….broccoli.
Food cravings develop from a nutrient deficiency in the body. If this were true, we’d actually be craving something like broccoli, not the giant chocolate chip cookie on the counter. Commonly, the culprits people crave the most are salt and sugar. Did you know that I hadn’t eaten sugar for a month and a half before I had that cookie? I wasn’t even craving the first one. It was the second and third one that kept yelling my name. This is because of the mood-boosting chemical dopamine. When we eat carb-rich, sweet or salty foods, the pleasure centers light up in the brain and it gets a huge dose of dopamine. The brain loves this and stores it into memory so it can know where to get the “hit” next time it needs a pick-me-up.
Food cravings come in the absence of food. Totally false! The truth is, the more often you eat, the more likely you’re feeding those cravings. Let’s go back to the itch. A craving is like a mosquito bite. It feels good when you’re itching it, but as soon as you stop the irritation starts up again. Decreasing the amount of times you eat per day actually gives the body more time to look for better fuel, like fat. Like the mosquito bite, once you stop paying attention to it, it eventually goes away.
Cravings are uncontrollable. While it’s true that they may feel that way, you can control them. A craving comes because the neurotransmitters in the brain sends a chemical response to your body. It’s typically influenced by something you saw, smelled, or thought. For example, you walk into a movie theater and smell the buttery popcorn. Odds are, you’ll want some and it’ll be especially compelling if that’s a part of your usual movie-going experience.
Have you ever just sat and felt a craving? You may be surprised how small it feels. It’s what our mind is saying that I’m most curious about. Have you taken time to listen to your thoughts when you’re having a craving? Mine says stuff like, “you have to have that or you’re going to die!” It’s funny how our minds can play tricks on us to get the “hit” it’s looking for. The lower brain has three jobs: look for the easy way, seek pleasure, and avoid pain at all costs. I call it the toddler brain for good reason. When it really wants something that’s just what it sounds like; mom, mom, mom, mommy, momma, mom, MOM!
Next time you have a craving, rest assured, they happen to all of us. However, we don’t have to answer them. In fact, the more we control them, the easier it becomes. Next time you get a craving try sitting with it and notice what your brain does. You may be surprised how easy it is to let it pass.
Want to learn more? Listen to the expanded version as I dive deeper into this topic and share stories and
examples on my podcast here.