SolveYourProblem Article Series: Weight Loss & Dieting
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How To Satisfy Your Cravings For Food

Everyone has experienced the occasional self-indulgent binge; it’s part of life. But how much a part of life do you make it? Is giving in to your cravings causing you to gain unwanted weight and/or preventing you from losing the weight you want to shed? This article will examine the nature of cravings and empower you with the knowledge and tools to thwart their sabotaging effects on your weight.

Although our human compulsion to eat is at first purely instinctive, many of the signals we use to identify hunger and satiation we learn and develop over time, based on the influences of our circumstances and the other people around us. Unlike how it was for our ancient, forest-dwelling ancestors, in modern civilization we have access to food around the clock, every day. Put that together with these misleading signals of ours and we find it dreadfully easy to succumb to the desire to eat, even though our body doesn’t require any additional calories or nutrients at that time.

In many regards, there is little that distinguishes compulsive overeating from other forms of substance abuse, and from addictive behavior in general. As with substance abuse and generally addictive behavior, stress, boredom, disappointment, anxiety, loneliness, insecurity, depression, and other negative emotional states all crave relief in some way. And beyond drugs and alcohol, one of the other ways many people have found to assuage those ill feeling and find the relief they crave is through the comfort of certain foods, or even simply through the comfort provided by very the act of eating.

The ruthlessness of this response to stress is that, usually, giving in to the craving results in the person feeling worse, not better, heaping guilt and shame atop whatever negative feelings they were already experiencing to begin with.

As with all forms of addictive behavior, there may often be a “trigger”, or an event that provokes the craving. This can be a television commercial, an impending part of a person’s daily routine (ie. work or school), an argument, a particular memory, the presence of a particular person, etc. Any of these can lead to a person craving certain foods (or food in general) when their body is not actually hungry.

Listen to your cravings closely, and not only because, in part, many times those cravings will be displaced desires for some form of mental or emotional fulfillment. Listen to them also in part because every once in a while, a craving is an honest-to-goodness cue from your body that a particular nutrient is lacking at that moment and sorely needed. When you have a craving that you may consider absurd (in other words, for something other than fats and sugars), consider that your body may be telling you that it needs some nutrient which that food contains.

Ordinarily, it won’t take much of the food in question to satisfy the craving. So just eat a little of it, then wait 5-10 minutes and see how you feel. Most times, the craving will have dissipated by then. If it hasn’t, eat just a little more and then wait again for 5-10 minutes, and so on, each time eating just a small amount and then giving your body time process what it needs and give you the signal as to whether or not it needs more.

Research on dieting and nutrition have actually identified three sources of food cravings that are not behavioral, those being:

  1. Starvation, or a response to the body feeling deprived of food (as in dieting);
  2. A response to the body’s perceived need for a particular nutrient to be supplied.
  3. A response to a hormonal state, (esp. in females).

To distinguish between hunger, which should be satiated, and cravings, which should be handled in some other way, here is a tip: wait 15 minutes or so, maybe take a walk or engage in a bit of activity or, in any case, distract yourself momentarily from your thoughts and the situation at the time (especially your hunger) and then see how you feel. Maybe even drink a glass of water (oftentimes we mistake thirst for hunger), and then see how you feel.

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