A craving for a sweet cupcake hits your body and it’s all you can think about. The next thing you know, you are licking icing off your fingers before you can ask what just happened. You were hit by a craving, and you’re not alone, 9 out of 10 women experience strong cravings, according to a study. If you are managing your weight on your own or have undergone a weight loss surgery (such as the gastric bypass surgery or lap band surgery) cravings can be your worst enemy. The cravings are caused by chemicals in the brain that are released when you eat these types of foods and make you feel good providing a rush of euphoria that your brain is looking for. Outsmart your cravings and understanding what your body really needs by asking four questions that help you identify the real cause of your craving.

Am I dealing with my emotions?

Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol, which tells the brain to seek out a reward. Fatty and sugary foods counter balance the stress by stopping the cortisol. Every time you reach for these foods as a result of negative feelings, you create a powerful connection between the emotion and the food through classic brain conditioning, just like in the famous experiment of Pavlov’s dog. Your memory then associates the comfort food as a solution to the unpleasant emotion or experience and the next time you experience that unpleasant situation, your brain tells you to get the cookies or chips.

To avoid connecting your emotions to food, try using these tips to manage cravings. Listen to upbeat music when a craving strikes which provides an emotional release and a distraction. Identify what the feeling is you are experiencing and find a fix; if you are bored – find an activity, worrying over a problem – call a friend, stressed about work – go for a work out. Using non-food fixes will also help you create positive brain conditioning, so that when you feel the stress of work coming on, your reaction is an urge to go to the gym rather than the bag of potato chips on the couch.

Am I restricting my diet?

Women who severely limit their calorie intake or limit certain foods, referred to as “restrained eaters”, to manage their weight, often end up with the opposite effect and are often 1 to 2 BMI points higher than regular eaters. Studies show restrained eaters are more likely to experience intense cravings and to over eat foods they have restricted when they do allow themselves to have them. For example, one study shows that women who eliminated carbs from their diet for 3 days reported experiencing stronger cravings and on day 4 ate more calories carb-rich food. Experts recommend, avoid restrained eating and instead enjoying your favourite foods but control the portions. Try sharing a dessert with your friends instead of ordering your own next time you’re out to dinner.

No matter how you plan to tackle your weight management or weight loss goals, managing cravings can be difficult at times. Remember to always ask yourself why you are craving the foods, before you dive in.
If you are struggling with your weight and would like to find out more about the weight loss outcomes of the range of weight loss surgeries available to you – from gastric bypass surgery to lap band surgery, or to find out more about how Weight Loss Mexico can help you to lose weight, for life, contact us today.

Check out part 2 of ‘Manage your cravings; manage your weight’  for the other two important questions you need to ask yourself when you are hit by your next craving.