One question I get asked a lot is how do you deal with cravings? I reply by saying “I eat chocolate, of course.” Wait, what? That doesn’t sound right. Well, let me explain.
First let’s discuss what causes cravings.
Cravings can be caused a few different ways. They can be both behavioral and also biochemical.
It’s a habit. Ever notice that after dinner you want something sweet or every time you go to the movies you crave popcorn? This is because our mind remembers situations and the habits and feelings created around that situation and it wants to continue with those feelings.
You are stressed. When you are stressed hormones are released that are related to cravings. These hormones drive you to take action and seek out the food you want to satisfy the craving. Dopamine, a chemical found in the brain that is related to cravings, floods the brain when we are seeking to find pleasure. When stress hormones like cortisol/catecholamines are released they make you less motivated and push you to seek out comfort foods like salty, sugary fatty foods. These hormones working together are released during times of high stress and increase cravings for foods that provide pleasure.
Your diet is unbalanced. I am sure you know the feeling, you start dieting and saying you are going to cut the cookies and cake only to find yourself relying solely on willpower to get you through those cravings. When you deprive yourself of certain foods it only makes you want it more. Focus balancing your diet with fiber, lean proteins and carbohydrates and eat the appropriate amount of food you need then you will have minimal cravings. When you diet is balanced and you are satisfied with the foods you are eating your cravings should be kept at bay.
Brain chemistry is off. Your brain has a four major neurotransmitters that are responsible for your mood, energy, personality, motivation and cravings. Each neurotransmitter has its own unique job, but when one or more of them are out of balance we can start to feel it effecting our moods, energy levels and can even weight gain. Your brain chemistry is always changing based on environment and nutritional status. Foods that help to keep brain chemistry balanced are cocoa, nuts, avocados, wild salmon and omega 3s.
Now we know what is causing our cravings, how do we fix cravings?
Be aware. Do you get a craving for cookies when your are stressed about something or do you get cravings for ice cream when you are tired? Take a minute to really think about when you are most faced with cravings. Is there something that you can do address the stress in your life instead of reaching for that cupcake?
Find a new habit. Do you find yourself reaching for the chips at night because that’s what you do when you watch TV? Or maybe you only order dessert when you are out to dinner because it pairs well with the wine you are drinking? Then it is time to find some new habits to institute. Instead of watching TV at night which is causing you to snack try going for a walk instead after dinner. Figure out what the trigger is, whether it be an event like going to the movies, alcohol or a specific food that triggers cravings and find away to build a new habit so that it doesn’t end up to be the cause of your cravings.
Balance brain chemistry. You can help to balance brain chemistry by raising dopamine levels and controlling stress. The 3 most beneficial things are cocoa powder, branch chain amino acids (BCAA) and the amino acid tyrosine and 5HTP in 10 to 1 ratio. These all seem to have a unique mechanism to shut down cravings from a biochemical end. This paired with behavioral changes can make all the difference.
Now back to the chocolate I eat to control my cravings. My friends at Metabolic Effect have come out with this amazing product called Craving Cocoa. It has all of the things we have talked about that you need to control cravings in one product. This has been life changing for me over the last few months. It feels like I am eating chocolate and it is helping me to crush all other cravings.