For many of us, food cravings are very normal to experience on occasion – and we accept them as so. But for some, food cravings are a challenge to beat on a daily basis. If this sounds like you, there are a few factors to consider next time they strike.
"If food is your crutch, then it’s time to make a break in that relationship and be mindful of the food habits you develop around your emotions."
The brain’s reward system is activated by certain triggers that all-too-frequently link emotions with food. These triggers stem from boredom, happiness, loneliness, and feeling the need to reward oneself on a personal level. When our brain and bodies link these emotional and reward systems, the brain releases opioids and we feel ‘better’ (albeit momentarily in most cases) for receiving that reward. Over time this habit becomes an addiction. The key to making a change? If food is your crutch, then it’s time to make a break in that relationship and be mindful of the food habits you develop around your emotions.
Stress, fatigue and poor sleeping habits often go hand in hand with an imbalance of leptin, insulin, cortisol – hormones that work to manage blood glucose levels, fullness, weight and energy. As our bodies look for an energy boost, sweet cravings are often the result. If this rings true for you, first look at stress management practice, sleep and breathing techniques to help balance hormonal fluctuations and work sound dietary principles from there.
Thanks to social media we are more frequently bombarded with images of food – good and bad – that trigger food cravings and hunger even when we’ve just eaten. While the imagery can be positive and inspiring for foodies (yours truly included) the best way forward is simple: limit your social media action to three times per day. This will not only help manage your cravings, but can offer you overall greater mental clarity and improved productivity too.
Jacqueline Alwill is a qualified, practicing nutritionist, whole foods cook and director at The Brown Paper Bag.