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Tips To Stop Unhealthy Food Cravings

Tips To Stop Unhealthy Food Cravings

We all experience food cravings from time to time. But most of us don’t live in the Shire, so second breakfast isn’t ideal.

Well, it may sound good, but it’s not setting us up for success or helping us achieve our long-term health and longevity goals.

It would be great if food cravings revolved around carrot sticks and not french toast sticks, but let’s be honest – a vegetable platter isn’t what you crave late at night, mid-afternoon, or post-breakup. The food industry has made sure of this with very expensive engineering of the products you see on store shelves. These were all designed to induce massive cravings; this has supplanted what would be normal desires for healthy foods.

So what causes these cravings? Let’s find out – so we can work on curbing the urge to reach for the food that harms us.

Why Do You Crave Unhealthy Foods?

Certain foods – particularly those that are high in fat, sugar or salt, can lead your body to release dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and hormone that contributes to your body’s memory, and feelings of reward and motivation.

This leads your brain to relate these unhealthy foods with a sense of reward. This causes a lot of us (because we’re human) to return to that particular food. Once a type of food is associated with a reward in the brain, this then causes formation of neural networks that essentially force you to obtain more. In addition, the act of eating rewarding food will also become a habit. Habits are behavior patterns that are ingrained in the brain by repetition and time. But, habits can be broken.

Handful of fries

And let’s face it, these foods are everywhere. They’re in television commercials, billboards, gas stations, the office potluck and everywhere in between. Most of these foods, even the saltier ones, have hidden sugars that trigger centers in the brain to induce further craving. In addition, they lack fiber and the sugar blast hits you without any obstacles. (This means the gut biome will not receive nutrition either.)

Even visual representations of these foods can trigger thoughts and cravings for them. This is called anticipation and is another way your brain has been entrained to make you unhealthy. So imagine what happens when your natural levels of dopamine are lower than usual. Of course, what you may not know is that every time you give yourself a dopamine ‘hit’ by eating that donut or cookie or bag of chips, you end up with slightly less dopamine overall. The cravings then cause a chain reaction of depletion of dopamine with deeper and deeper ‘crashes’ after eat episode.

 

Stack of donuts

When you’re feeling sad, anxious, stressed or tired, these cravings can intensify. That’s because your brain wants to feel better and you associate these foods with feeling good and happy. Also, when you are sad, stressed or tired, the executive functions of your brain are diminished. This means there is no ‘adult in the room.’ Your self-control is diminished and the dopamine need becomes all important.

Emotional eating isn’t necessarily the result of being physically hungry, but emotionally hungry. Eating at this time can be particularly dangerous for your health, because you’re not looking to satisfy a physical need for proper nutrition.

How Can You Resist Food Cravings?

You can resist food cravings in a few different ways. First, you can address the root cause of your desire to grab that sweet or salty snack. The basic premise is to gain self-awareness.

Are you anxious or stressed? Start by engaging in healthy, stress-relieving activities. Here’s our list of ways we relieve anxiety at Well Theory, but you can make your own plan-of-action and keep it somewhere you can access it easily, like the fridge.

Woman doing sitting yoga pose
  • Call a friend or family member
  • Go on a walk, jog, or bike ride
  • Hit the gym – or your favorite exercise class
  • Cuddle your dog, cat, or nonvenomous reptile
  • Write or draw in your journal
  • Meditate or engage in a deep breathing protocol

There are so many ways to relieve tension! You just have to find the right one for you.

Food cravings may also be the result of a poor sleep cycle. Getting good sleep will help you feel better in the short-term and improve your longevity. Sleep is extremely important for regulating emotion and stress levels.

If you’re having a hard time getting enough sleep, we’d recommend establishing a good sleep routine. Make a plan for what you’re going to do before bed and when you’re going to do it. That way you’re in bed at the same time each night. You’ll want to aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night.

If you believe you need some more help, you can try any of our Well Theory sleep gummies. Our Delta-8 Gummies are great for sleep and anxiety relief. As with any supplement, you may want to discuss your regimen with your physician.

Our Favorite Foods To Reach For Instead

You can also reduce cravings by eating healthier substitutes. These alternative snacks can be just as rewarding for your brain, but they tend to be healthier than fast or processed foods.

Dr. Warner is a big advocate of the Mediterranean Diet, which focuses on whole foods as opposed to processed foods. You can check out her webinar on the topic here.

Craving something salty? Try these:

Carrots

Raw Vegetables

Raw vegetables can offer just as much of a satisfying crunch! Try dipping them in fresh hummus and you’ve got yourself a great snack!

Kale chips in bowl

Vegetable Chips

Vegetable chips can be a healthier option than classic potato chips. Just be sure to check the fat and salt content while at the store, or try to make your own! These are still processed, so be careful.

Olives on a small branch

Olives

Olives are a good snack when you want something salty and want to reduce inflammation!

Miso Paste

Miso Soup

Miso soup is a salty soup that’s low in calories! It can be a good source of vitamins and minerals as well.

eggs

Hard Boiled Eggs

Hard boiled eggs - or medium boiled if you prefer! These are a good source of protein and vitamin B12 - and great for salty cravings.

Glass of salted water

Salted Water

Some people simply need to take a pinch of salt and drink a glass of water. Check with your physician if you are salt-sensitive.

More of a sweet tooth? We’ve got you covered.

Red Grapes

Fresh Fruit

Fresh fruit contains natural sugars, but it can also come with antioxidants and other nutrients your body needs. Fresh, whole fruit also has a lot of fiber.

Yogurt

Greek Yogurt

Throw some fresh fruit on greek yogurt and you’ll have a protein-packed snack that can reduce your sugar cravings!

dark chocolate

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate can be good for reducing cravings when smaller portions are maintained. But go ahead, break yourself off a square! Make sure it lacks added sugars.

Tea

Tea/ Water

If you crave soda, you might just be thirsty. Iced tea or carbonated water are a couple fun ways to curb that desire for soda.

Almonds

Nut Butter

Nut butter in small portions can be a good way to reduce a sweet tooth, while getting a good serving of protein. Ideally, your nut butter will have a limited amount of ingredients. Some grocery stores allow you to make fresh nut butter.

There are so many other healthy snacks that can reduce cravings! This is just the tip of the iceberg.

While it’s unlikely that a nutrient deficiency is causing your cravings, if you think you may have one, we encourage you to visit your doctor.

It is too much to discuss in this blog, but a 5 week detox from added sugars can successfully remove the craving from the brain and help control the addiction. Habit modifications are also possible. Habit changing is an aspect of mindfulness and mind set.

Taking a multivitamin can ensure you get a good foundation of nutrients you need. Well Theory’s Daily Multi with PEA is a great way to do that. It contains vitamins C and D, along with zinc and magnesium.

Dr. Meredith Warner Baton Rouge Orthopedic Surgeon
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Meredith Warner is the creator of Well Theory and The Healing Sole. She is a board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Air Force Veteran.

She is on a mission to disrupt traditional medicine practices and promote betterment physically, spiritually and mentally to many more people. She advocates for wellness and functional health over big pharma so more people can age vibrantly with more function and less pain.

At Well Theory, Our surgeon-designed products are FDA Registered and formulated to help people:

  • Manage the symptoms of musculoskeletal pain
  • Recover vibrantly from orthopedic related surgeries
  • Fill the gaps in our daily diets
  • Manage pain associated with inflammation
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