We have all battled with them - that drive behind getting in the car after having a full meal to go get something you can't stop thinking about. The overwhelming feeling that you NEED to eat something.
Yes, I'm talking CRAVINGS!
Let's start with some Myth-busting!!
❌ I just need more willpower to beat these cravings.
❌ More restrictions in my diet would keep me from having any cravings
❌ I have no control over my cravings, my body is telling me what is wants.
Cravings are normal to have but we have definitely normalized them in to a degree where we let them control us — using them as a crutch or excuse for health/weight/circumstances etc.
Dopamine (a pleasure hormone) is what often drives us to take action! Cravings are driven by dopamine, that sense of satisfaction and enjoyment that comes with eating a certain food. This is what keeps us motivated and fixated on that something.
Hunger Hijackers are to blame
The majority of the Standard American Diet is consistent of ultra-processed foods, high in carbs, and lacking a lot of nutrition and nourishment. THIS is why cravings have become so prevalent today.
According to Dr. Amy Shah, a double board certified MD and nutritionist, she calls these foods Hunger Hijackers. Foods such as doristos, chocolate covered pretzels, coke/pepski, and other fast food options are factory-constructed combinations of salt, sugar, and fat. These are specifically created with flavors that create a "dopamine explosion" for your body. These foods create a bliss point way beyond any whole food naturally can which is why we are driven to them at such high rates... aka higher levels and strong cravings!
Triggers within the body that can lead to cravings consist of:
Lack of Sleep
Gut bacteria imbalance
Not enough protein/fat/fiber
Blood Sugar Rollercoaster
Taking back control
So instead of throwing up your hands and saying "well if my body is craving it, I have no control", let's do something about it!
1. Support your Gut Health
Avoid overusing antibiotics / sanitizer all the time. These kill all bacteria, including the good ones. This is not me saying to never take medicine. There is definitely a place and role for modern medicine. But if you can find a natural/holistic way to support your body that can so beneficial for your overall health. Also, feeding nourishing foods to the gut - this can change your cravings. The gut is the second brain of the body, and has the power to directly influence the foods you crave. So by eating foods that feed the good bacteria, you crave more of the good for you food.
Foods packed with fiber feed your gut such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, fermented foods (yogurt/acv/kefir/kombucha) etc. Probiotics and prebiotics are great to add in here too.
2. Sleep at least 7 hours
When your sleep is disrupted, your hunger hormones are impacted (ghrelin goes up, and leptin goes down) causing you to be hungrier and less satisfied. The foods you reach for are often to give you that quick hit of energy (and maybe a dopamine hit in there too) and are often those processed carbs, snacky options, that are easy to reach. Try getting at least 7 hours of sleep so you feel rested and have more balanced hunger hormones throughout the day!
3. Eat Protein/Fat/fiber at breakfast
High protein foods can be a source of dopamine hits as well (not as high as the manufactured ones but still!) Think foods like egg scrambled, quality dairy/cottage cheese, nuts, and seeds to start off your day. This will also keep your blood sugar balanced supporting those hunger hormones and satiety!
4. Stay Hydrated
Your body has many ways to tell you what it needs, and will keep trying until you listen. Hydration can come off the form of hunger cravings since we can get water from some food sources. Staying hydrated and drinking enough water as well as electrolytes can support keeping those cravings at bay. Tip: If you recently finished a meal but still find yourself craving something, try having a glass of water first and waiting 10 minutes. It might have been a way your body was saying it needed some hydration.
5. Ditch the Diet Mentality
Telling yourself you can't/shouldn't/arent allowed certain foods just turns up the volume on your cravings and your mindset. Think about a child, when you say they can't have something... they just want it more!