Almost all mankind loves to eat delicious food. Especially difficult to resist food temptations for women. But it is fraught with overeating and obesity development because the balance of adipose tissue hormones, including leptin, with ghrelin is disturbed, and leptin resistance occurs with a perverse reaction of the hypothalamic satiety centers. How to cope with irresistible cravings for food, you will learn from the article.
- What does a person like to eat.
- Causes of food cravings.
- The role of the reinforcement center.
- The role of hormones.
- External cues.
- Why don’t we crave healthy foods.
- How to stop cravings.
What a person likes to eat
The irresistible desire to eat a product does not apply to all food. The strongest desire causes chocolate, bread, sugar, pizza, fried foods. These foods are desirable even when fully satiated, so it is difficult to cope with such a need in the short term. Hunger is a response due to lack of energy, while cravings are the work of the mind. This is why it is so difficult to cope with such a situation. A person believes that a bar of chocolate will help to restore the lack of energy, and while there is some truth in this, of course, this is not the main reason that provokes the urge to eat and binge.
For example, the most popular myth about women’s dependence on chocolate for biological, gender reasons is debunked. There is no direct correlation, the real reason is purely psychological, associated with eating traditions and culture. For example, in the U.S., chocolate is firmly associated with women’s craving for sweets, so if the desire to eat a bar of chocolate is demonstrated by a man, it looks strange, indicates his weakness. So men a priori exclude chocolate from their list of desires. Another stereotype is the emotionalism of women who eat stress. But cortisol levels are equally elevated in men and women at a time of worry. So the desire to eat is exactly the same. It is possible to cope with this if you know how.
Reasons for cravings for food
Triggers of the desire to eat are rooted in antiquity. Even our “ancestors,” the monkeys, survived on fruit, isolating the ripest and sweetest ones. Sugar helped monkeys store fat and make up for energy expenditures. Sugar was broken down into fructose and glucose, which caused the body’s desire to put aside reserves for a rainy day. This is a fundamental moment, since the fat reserves helped to survive the days when there was simply no food. At some point in the famine, a gene mutation occurred: the monkeys began to cumulate fat in even larger amounts. It was a survival mechanism. Those monkeys that ate sweeter fruits deposited more fat and lived to reproduce more easily, passing on their genes to their heirs. These traces are still preserved in the human genome, so the human addiction to sweets is biologically determined.
In addition, there are specific triggers for wanting to eat delicious food. These are:
- Stress. It is well known that anxiety provokes the release into the blood of the hormone cortisol, which increases the concentration of sugar in the blood. Glucose is immediately disposed of by the cells and it burns off quickly. But at the same time, leptin and insulin, which control the feeling of satiety, are minimized by the same sugar or simply stop being produced. As a result, sugar is quickly burned off, and the body demands more and more portions before it is satiated. This develops a sense of hunger and a desire to eat. And above all, one thinks about favorite and tasty foods.
- Memory strains. A craving for a certain food is the work of memory. If a person has a desire to eat something in particular, this excruciating feeling leaves him only when satisfaction comes, that is, the desired product is eaten. In the memory remains a mark about it. This is why the next time the brain, in the absence of the feeling of fullness, demands only the very food that helped it last time. Practically cerebral structures claim that only pizza or chocolate ice cream can help a person. The result is a habit: frustration – thoughts of a particular food – eating it in unlimited quantities because the regulator-leptin is blocked.
It turns out that cravings for particular foods are localized in three parts of the brain:
- The hippocampus, which controls memory (and we already know how that works).
- The islet lobe, which is responsible for the emotional response (it confirms that it is the food with which pleasant memories are associated that is being consumed).
- The caudate nucleus, which controls the synthesis of specific opioids in response to the food just eaten. This means that the brain rewards a person with euphoria for eating sweet or fatty foods.
The activity of all three brain regions in the satiety process has been scientifically proven.
The role of the center of reinforcement
Motivation in the broad sense of the word is the responsibility of the center of reinforcement located in the limbic system: the hypothalamus, amygdala, hippocampus and some other parts. It maps out a goal, and when the task is accomplished, it releases dopamine, the pleasure hormone, into the blood. This biochemical induces a feeling of satisfaction, and a person associates with it the moment the goal is achieved.
And they can be different: doing homework, writing a book, completing a project – these are healthy goals. But they can also be destructive: to eat a pan of fried potatoes, for example. The mechanism of execution is exactly the same: fulfillment of the goal is pleasure. In the process of accomplishing the goal, the prefrontal cortex, which controls the impulses responsible for executing long-term plans, is blocked, so the idea of a healthy lifestyle recedes into the background.
Additional motivation is guaranteed by the release of cortisol. If the desire is not satisfied, a stressful situation occurs. From the evolutionary point of view it is reasonable and important: food is scarce, so in its absence there is a release of dopamine. The pleasurable feeling is associated with the food and the behavior that led to its seeking. The behavior is repeated. In today’s context – this leads to the difficulty of restraining oneself from easily getting pleasure when stress occurs.
The role of hormones
The best known hormones that control hunger and satiety are leptin and ghrelin. The first is a hormone of fat cells, the second is a hormone of the gastric mucosa. Ghrelin is synthesized when there is an energy deficit, a person feels hunger and a desire to eat, even if he has just got up from the table. Leptin, on the other hand, is produced by lipid layers when it is necessary to signal the cerebral structures of satiety.
If the mechanism of digestion and production of leptin is disrupted, there is a constant search for food and obesity. And the broken balance between synthesis and utilization can be at the genetic level or due to systematic overeating. Thus, once again we emphasize that the level of leptin in the bloodstream plays a very important role not only in satisfying a person’s need for food, but also in the formation of obesity. When there is a leptin imbalance, the body loses the ability to effectively communicate the satiety signal and a consultation with a nutritionist is required.
Today, the practice of advertising food products has become commonplace. Media, TV, radio, and telegram channels distribute beautiful, appetite-exciting pictures of various foods. But if the brain associates food with external signals, then every time such a signal is played, there will automatically be a desire to eat. That’s why it’s so hard to walk past your favorite pizza place or hamburger joint.
Why there is no craving for healthy food
We probably don’t need to explain additionally that we want delicious food not because of a lack of energy, but because of its association with euphoria, a feeling of pleasure. The very recollection of delicious food promises happy moments. Tasty food is available to everyone today, they eat a lot of it, and the association with pleasure reinforces this habit. As a result, the human body sacredly believes that getting a particular product is a matter of life and death, just as it was with our ancestors. In other words, the craving for food is purely psychological. The question is whether it can be dealt with.
How to Fight Cravings
There are a number of ways to cope with cravings for no particular reason:
- The simplest is to stop thinking about food by tricking your brain. Replacing thoughts of something yummy with any other blocks the synthesis of cortisol and minimizes the work of . You can go for a walk, re-do household chores, call a friend, play Tetris.
- Chewing chewing gum is also a kind of brain cheat: no calories, but the feeling of pleasure remains.
- Ripe fruit guarantees a rise in blood sugar levels, which is seemingly necessary, but they contain maximum vitamins and micronutrients with a minimum of calories, which usefully solves a difficult problem.
- To eat regularly, so that there are no big interruptions and an automatically arising desire for a snack. It has been proven that in three days, a person who eats small portions in a fractional meal has a 22 percent drop in leptin synthesis.
- Quality food is important. Fast food with a minimum of nutrients is what you want most. So replacing this useless food with quality foods with less flavorful appeal automatically solves the craving problem.
- Take a friend as your ally: he or she will keep you from unnecessary snacking at the right time.
- Get rid of all temptations: there should be nothing harmful, but tasty in the apartment. Plus – do not watch ads for foods you like, avoid restaurants with alluring smells. If there are no irritating signals to the brain, there are no consequences either.
- Find out the causes of cravings and balance your diet.
- Eliminate sugar from the menu – for many it becomes the only way to correct destructive desires.
- Use as much protein as possible in the daily menu, which gives a long feeling of fullness.
- Switch to portions the size of the palm of your hand.
- Sleep more, because lack of sleep is the cause of energy deficiency in the body.
- Do sports: the higher the intensity of training, the less the feeling of hunger, so do physical activity little by little, but with great effort.
- Take care of your psychological comfort.
- Train your brain so that it perceives ordinary food as a reward. In six months using the “iDiet” method with the application of willpower within reasonable limits, it is possible to achieve excellent results.
There really is a craving for food. Humans are biologically predisposed to eat fatty and sweet foods (the ancestral principle of survival of the fittest). Our body’s reaction by releasing dopamine and opiates into the bloodstream in response to pleasurable foods is the true cause of cravings. But this problem can be solved by understanding how the brain works and what its weak points are. This is what we need to activate as a trap for addiction.