You promise yourself that today will be different. You won’t gravitate toward that donut at the office, you won’t eat a piece of that birthday cake at the party, you’ll stock up on broccoli and carrot sticks to prevent needing to eat that junk. You can do it. You can do it. Just do it. But…
There are many causes of food cravings, all of which nick away at our willpower with the force of a jackhammer. All of which can make fighting off eating out of the “cracky” vending machine seem like a real war, synonymous with the battles of Seinfeld vs Newman, Tupac vs Biggie and Wile E. Coyote vs the Road Runner, but they are actually more akin to the internalized clash of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.
Fun Little Exercise: Take a minute and think… What food can’t you imagine living without? What is the food that enters your life almost every day? If you are feeling upset, bored, overwhelmed, or angry what food/s do you gravitate toward? If you were to be stranded on a small, dessert island (besides the necessities of life), what food would you take? It might be a quesadilla (hopefully there is a grill on that island), a chocolate candy bar, toast, a cheese sandwich, coffee, a beer, cheese or something else. Write it down. Now imagine that I’ve told you that you can’t EVER eat that food again. Done. It is out of your life. Done. What do you feel? Anger? Confusion? Resentment? Done? Have you stopped reading because you don’t like this game?
The stronger your emotional attachment to a food, the more likely that the attachment is not simply an issue of convenience or habit, but instead an addiction. This addiction can make changing your diet and lifestyle excruciatingly difficult. It can make committing to a diet plan, a healthy eating plan, a cleanse or a New Year’s resolution last as long as a relationship with Kim Kardashian.
Removing that food from your life may alleviate seemingly minor symptoms (post nasal drip, congestion, diarrhea, etc.) or huge symptoms (migraines, weight gain, moodiness, depression, fatigue, etc.), but the internal effects of consuming the antigen (food intolerance or allergy) does not mimic the external effects. Regardless of how minor your symptoms seem or how little of the food you eat, internally your body wages an all-out chemical and biological warfare against that stray food particle that your body has labeled as an enemy—an unrecognizable toxin—no longer that innocuous grilled cheese sandwich you had for lunch. But because our body loves us and would do anything to protect us from the ravages of war, it releases soothing chemicals to keep us calm (aka puts us in “la la, food coma, comfort food land”). And as a result of these “happy hormones,” you guessed it… We eat the chocolate chip cookie and all of sudden the world feels a little rosier and by golly, you might even feel a little giddy!
When our body is in a state of stress or trauma, be it from running from a bear, eating a food we have an intolerance or allergy to (sparking the internal war) or eating sugar which quickly effects our blood sugar levels, our body protects us in its state of stress and shock and releases endorphins which numb our feelings, enhance our pleasure and kill our pain—leaving us with a feeling of “ahhhhh,” euphoria and joy (think “runner’s high”). Unfortunately, eventually, if our body is constantly in a state of stress and releasing endorphins, we stop producing them on our own without the help of stress (causing us to subconsciously crave things eliciting the stress response, which may include food cravings) and eventually even stress stops producing them, causing us to crave specific foods and drugs that attach to the pleasure receptors in our brain. Unfortunately, those too eventually stop working, causing us to eat more and more of those foods and do more and more of those drugs to get that euphoric feeling of “ahhhh”. The more depleted our neurotransmitters become, the stronger the craving and addiction to those foods we have an intolerance to (cause stress in our body) becomes.
So, what does this all mean to you? If you are one of those people that says, “I don’t have a problem with gluten or dairy or chocolate or coffee (or whatever other food) because I love it too much for it to be a problem” than rest assured it is very likely that you love that food so much because it causes your body stress and therefore releases the “happy hormones”.
The first step to changing your relationship to food is to understand that relationship. Understanding where your craving is coming from may be enough to help you beat the craving—whether the craving is caused from the stress response (as discussed in this article), leaky brain with foods attaching to the opiate receptors, hormonal imbalance, thyroid issues, imbalanced blood sugar, parasites, candida overgrowth, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, habit, adrenal stress/fatigue, poor sleep, fat deficiency, nutrient deficiencies or something else. If you are having a hard time figuring out the cause of your cravings or if knowing isn’t enough to get them under control, consider working with a natural health practitioner to take your diet and lifestyle to the next level of health. You can also sign up for a complimentary Vitality Strategy Session to support you in uncovering the root cause of your cravings.
If the stress response is at the basis of your food cravings, you may find it helpful to naturally support balancing your neurotransmitters under the guidance of a natural health practitioner, working to reduce the stress in your life, and making sure to eat protein which are the building blocks of neurotransmitters. Learn more how to do this in my free webinar: 6 Keys to Optimizing Your Mental & Emotional Health.
So what are the foods that you crave and don’t think you can live without?