It’s late afternoon, a couple hours after lunch. You go to see a colleague and are confronted with a box of donuts. You know you shouldn’t, but something else is taking over, and before you know it, you’ve inhaled the biggest one. Now you feel guilty, bloated, and defeated.
According to my friend Alex Jamieson, certified holistic health counselor, professional chef, and author, you must stop blaming yourself. Food cravings are something we all go through-a way the brain has of coping with stress, hormone spikes, and energy demands.
“It’s so frustrating,” she says. “We know we shouldn’t eat these foods, but we keep craving them, and so we keep succumbing to those cravings.”
Unfortunately, food cravings not only wreak havoc on our waistlines, but also on our appearance. Below, Alex tells us how to turn these cravings around-and offers Cinco Vidas readers exclusive free access to some of her helpful videos.
(See the end of the post for the link to Alex’s “Cure Cravings” and “Desk Yoga for Neck & Back Health” videos!)
According to Alex, human beings are wired to experience cravings. The following are four of the most common:
- Sugar. “We crave sugar because we’re built to crave sugar,” Alex says. “Human beings are born with two taste preferences-we prefer something sweet and dislike anything bitter. All other tastes are acquired as we go through life.” Unfortunately, sugar feeds the bacteria and yeast in our bodies, causing a spike in inflammation, and potentially leading to more breakouts and redness on our skin.
- Alcohol. Similar to sugar, alcohol offers us a sensory reward, but then later impacts our stress hormones and dehydrates us, resulting in dry skin. According to a study published in 2012, alcohol triggers the release of chemical neurotransmitters in the brain that induce feelings of pleasure.
- Dairy. There are many reasons you may crave milk. One study found that women may crave it to alleviate body weakness. Cravings may also be tied in with the idea of “comfort foods” derived from childhood. Unfortunately, much of today’s milk is full of growth hormones and antibiotics that can affect our health. Milk can also have an effect on hormones, causing breakouts and acne.
- Bread. Certain nutrient deficiencies can cause bread cravings, but because many types of bread break down quickly in the body, it can also act like a sugar hit. Those who are sensitive to gluten may also find themselves experiencing mood swings after eating wheat bread and other wheat products.
Why We Crave
What causes these cravings? Alex says there are three main factors:
- Nutritional. We may crave certain foods because our bodies are missing some nutrients, or needing more calories.
- Physical. If you’re working late and you’re tired, for example, your body knows you need energy, so it will urge you to get some through a sugar craving. If you’re about to go for a run and you feel a sudden craving, it may be because your body knows you will need the energy.
- Emotional. “During my divorce,” Alex jokes, “Ben & Jerry’s kept me company. Our bodies are very smart. They know if we eat ice cream, especially if it has chocolate in it, that we will feel good. That ice cream will help us avoid pain. During emotional cravings, our bodies just want to feel good, immediately, as fast as they can.”
What’s the Solution?
While it’s all well and good to know how and why you have cravings, the bigger question is, how do you cope with them without sabotaging your diet and health goals? Alex says the first step is to identify your triggers. In her four-video series, “Cure Your Cravings,” she helps you figure out whether you are more of a nutritional, physical, or emotional eater.
“When you start noticing your triggers,” she says, “you’re going to notice that you’re hungry or thirsty because of something going on physically-like you’re tired-or something going on emotionally, like you’re feeling down or stressed. It may also mean that you’re diet hasn’t been the greatest lately, and you need to stock up on more nutritious items.”
Once you understand and become aware of what’s triggering you, you can make smarter choices. “Instead of grabbing that donut,” Alex says, “maybe you decide to get up and take a walk instead.”
Giveaway-Check It Out Today!
Alex has kindly agreed to donate two videos to Cinco Vidas readers. Go to her four-video “Cure Your Cravings” series to identify your triggers and take the steps needed to get over your cravings once and for all.
In this series, Alex shows you how to:
- Identify your triggers.
- Care for yourself. “We often treat our pets better than we treat ourselves,” Alex says. “We need to see eating as part of the ‘care and feeding’ of our bodies.”
- Set up better habits. Create structures in your life that help you stick with the healthier habits you’ve chosen, and build yourself a community of like-minded people who also desire to live healthier lifestyles.
Jennifer LaRue Huget, “Why do some people crave alcohol?” The Washington Post, January 11, 2012, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-checkup/post/why-do-some-people-crave-alcohol/2010/12/20/gIQAlTJlrP_blog.html.