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Decode the Why of Cravings

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>> Hi. In this module, we're focusing on a very popular and very frustrating topic within the emotional eating world, cravings. We've all had them, right? Suddenly, you desperately want chocolate, or potato chips, or pizza, or pickles, or spicy foods, or big hunk of meat. A craving is characterized by intensity and specificity. It's a powerful desire or urge for specific food. Cravings are among the most common and intense eating experiences. In fact, up to 97% of women and 68% of men might experience them. They're a form of emotional or psychological hunger, rather than physical hunger. Like other emotional eating triggers, they can strike quickly and create a need for instant gratification. We might joke about them, but they can make us feel out of control and create feelings like anxiety or even anger if we can't satisfy them. Like other aspects of emotional eating, cravings are pervasive and complex. They're often influenced by mood but also by many other factors. There's a great deal of research on what causes them, it's an area that's far from black and white. However, one key point is that cravings are bio-individual. They vary from person to person and different people experience different cravings at different times. Here's a question for you. Do you think cravings are physiological, psychological, or both? And why? Pause the video here, grab your journal, and take a few minutes to think about this. So where do you think this information comes from? Cravings may stem from a variety of roots. The key thing to remember here is that cravings are information. As an IIN Health Coach, it's helpful to approach cravings with what Joshua calls a beginners mind from a place of neutral and nonjudgmental curiosity. After all, they're influenced by a variety of factors. One idea is that cravings indicate some sort of biological imbalance, you might call these physical cravings. Remember that the body is kind of like a biocomputer, it tries to create balance for something that's out of sync. Using this mindset, physical cravings might stem from physiological imbalances and/or nutrient deficiencies. Nonetheless, there are likely psychological components as well. For example, a perceived lack and primary food. In this lecture, we're going to cover some potential root causes of physical cravings, as well as how to approach them through both physiological and psychological lenses. Think about both these lenses as we cover these eight roots. Number one, dehydration. In other words, an imbalance of water. This is a very common and poorly understood cause of cravings. We've probably all read somewhere that when trying to lose weight or curb snacking, you should be drinking a big glass of water first and then see if you're still actually hungry 15 minutes later. But why? Our brains can confuse thirst with hunger, which can motivate us to reach for food. In short, our bodies know they need something, but our brains and often our emotions get in the way. For a person who has a tendency to use food to ease or distract, satisfying discomfort with something other than food might seem unappealing if not downright unacceptable. Why? Food is more exciting. And to an emotional eater, it feels more rewarding. Would you rather eat a piece of cake or drink a glass of water? When food is used as a reward or a coping mechanism, a physiological feeling of hunger can feel like a justified excuse to snack or maybe reach for drinks other than water, like sugary drinks, coffee, or alcohol, which might further dehydrate. In short, not only can we confuse dehydration with hunger signals, but we often want instant gratification when hunger pangs strike. Emotional eaters tend to disconnect when choosing water over cake when they feel thirsty because that overwhelming desire for cake could disappear rather quickly. In this case, the underlying problem, dehydration, isn't addressed. You can see how over time, this can lead to feeling increasingly disconnected from the body and making poor dietary choices. Number two, lack of nutrients. The body is wise and it will often try to communicate with what's missing in your diet. For example, have you ever heard pregnant women say they crave red meat, even if they don't normally eat it? This might be due to an increased need for protein during pregnancy or maybe even iron. Cravings seem to vary based on culture. So more research is needed in the area of pregnancy in particular, but it might be an interesting factor to explore with clients. Here's another interesting phenomenon. You've probably experienced the addictive power of highly processed foods. No matter how much you eat, you never feel satisfied, so you crave more. Why is that? One reason is that foods like these can leave the body undernourished and overfed. Take sugar for example. Fructose confuses the natural hormonal balance, it doesn't suppress the hunger hormone ghrelin or stimulate the fullness hormones insulin and leptin. Therefore, you might keep eating because your body tells you it's still hungry, even though you're consuming plenty of calories. Talk about a vicious cycle, right? You might think of this as the body trying to communicate that it won't be satisfied until it receives real food with nutrients that it can actually use. However, one might ask, "Then why don't we all crave kale and broccoli?" Many people could probably benefit from eating more vegetables, yet they don't crave foods that probably provide nutrients that many diets lack. In short, broccoli and kale can't compete with tempting foods on grocery shelves, thoughts? Number three, hunger. As we know, sometimes, it's more about how we eat than what we eat. In this case, not eating enough. We often crave foods when we're very hungry or as we might say, starving. This is one of the most important reasons why diets don't work. Our bodies revolt when we try to control them. Restrict during the day and you might very likely overeat and crave more at night because your body senses deprivation and goes into safety mode, which can lead to a feeding frenzy. In addition, your mind might jump in and shout, "Hey, you didn't eat need much today, so you deserve to treat yourself now." Furthermore, when we're extremely hungry, we're more likely to eat anything because we want instant gratification and eat it quickly too. That is why many Health Coaches recommend not grocery shopping when you're hungry. You'll probably end up buying more comfort foods than you normally would because everything looks so delicious and you feel like you just can't help yourself. Number four, yin-yang imbalances. In Chinese philosophy, yin-yang is a theory of balancing opposites. We've talked about the eating matrix, which includes constant hustling, chronic stress, and pressure to fit into the mold. This is all associated with yang energy. Foods can also be yin or yang. An overabundance of one can lead to craving for the other because the body wants to maintain homeostatic balance. For example, an overly yang lifestyle or eating a lot of meat can create cravings for yin foods, including raw foods. These lighter foods can be calming for both body and mind. On the other hand, yin foods can warm the body and ground an anxious mind. Though it might sound strange, cravings can be helpful. They might indicate an imbalanced diet. After all, while a dieting mind opts for restriction, the body craves homeostasis. Therefore, the yin-yang idea emphasizes balance over extremes. Number five, stagnant energy. You can think about energy both physically and emotionally. Physically, it can relieve tension, tightness, and digestive blockage aka constipation. Emotionally, it releases feel-good hormones, and it can also be a helpful form of release. When we don't move, our energy can build up leading to cravings for foods that offer short-term relief. And on the flip side, the more active we are, the more we might be drawn to foods that truly nourish us. If you think about it, emotions have different energies too. In his book, "The Presence Process," Michael Brown writes about emotions as energy in motion. As we know, emotions can fuel cravings. So through that lens, suppressing a stronger emotion, like fear, by satisfying a craving that produces a temporary emotion, like joy, might create stagnant energy because the root emotion isn't being addressed and released. Does that make sense? Again, it's yet one more way to think about cravings which might resonate with some clients but now with others. Number six, food history. Food history includes the foods that we've recently eaten, which remain in our minds for a period of time, post meal as well as on our tongues. We might crave what we ate days ago because it's still present in our minds and bodies. Food history also includes the food that our ancestors ate. Believe it or not, this might be a reason why you enjoyed foods that no one else around you enjoys. My father feels this way about German potato salad. It's nostalgic because he grew up eating it, but his mother also grew up eating it. In short, it goes back generations, and our family might have developed a palette for it over time. Perhaps, we're more physically adapted to eat the diet our ancestors ate. Another example, babies pallets can actually develop in the womb. Consider this mother nature's way of introducing babies to foods from their cultures. They eat what their mothers eat. For example, studies show that babies whose mothers ate more carrots, while pregnant might prefer carrot-flavored cereal. That said, palettes can change over time, which is one reason why habit change is possible. Enter you, the Health Coach. Number seven, season. Have you ever noticed that you crave more cooling and hydrating foods during the hot summer months, and more grounding and warming foods in the winter? These seasonal cravings are often your body's ways of trying to maintain homeostasis by balancing your internal and external environments. For example, I tend to prefer cooked foods in the winter which are warming. If I eat too many salads, I feel, well, cold. Does that make sense? If you have clients who try to lose weight by eating lots of salads and smoothies in the winter and find themselves constantly derailed by cravings, this could be a contributing factor. Number eight, hormones. We've discussed connections between stress and emotional eating, which has to do in part with hormones. Cortisol increases not only during stress, but also during certain parts of a woman's menstrual cycle, which as many female clients will tell you can lead to cravings for simple carbs like bread and chocolate. Why? Because these foods boost serotonin. Hormonal fluctuation might also explain pregnancy and menopausal cravings. Though, this continues to be an area of research. The take home, hormones seem to play a role in cravings. Okay, I know that was a lot. Let's recap. A craving is a strong desire or urge for a specific food. As a form of emotional or psychological hunger, it can strike quickly, feel out of control, motivate a need for instant gratification, and lead to feelings like anxiety or anger if we can't satisfy. Cravings are common, normal, and bio-individual. As a Health Coach, it's helpful to think about cravings as information. When it comes to physical cravings, one idea is that they stem from biological imbalances and/or nutrient deficiencies. It's helpful to consider potential, psychological, and physiological roots, which include dehydration, lack of nutrients, extreme hunger, yin-yang imbalances, stagnant energy, food history, season, and hormones. Are you ready to apply some of this material? We included a handout called Navigate Cravings, a fun exercise that you can try for yourself, as well as a done-for-you version that you can use with clients. Be sure to take a look at that this week. How can you help clients navigate the why behind their cravings and find alternate ways to satisfy themselves? Share your experience with your course mates in the Facebook group. We're here for you. That's all for now, until next time.

Video Details

Duration: 13 minutes and 16 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
License: Dotsub - Standard License
Genre: None
Views: 6
Posted by: integrativenutrition on Mar 14, 2019

Decode the Why of Cravings

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