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Why You Crave

Updated: Apr 30

"I try to eat healthy, and I do so well all day, but then I just get these incredible cravings sometimes, and I simply can't resist. I have no will power. What's wrong with me?"

If this sounds like you, you're not alone. There is nothing wrong with your body, and it's not more will power you need. Allow me to explain.

Cravings can result for a number of reasons, but based on my training, countless conversations with others who struggle in this area, as well as my own personal experience, the most common craving triggers are these:

  1. HABIT - The pleasure and reward center in our brain is incredibly powerful. There are a few locations in the brain getting fired up here, but the amygdala especially. It lets us know when an experience is enjoyable and reinforces the desire for us to perform the same pleasurable action or activity again and again. "Dang, those Girl Scout cookies made me so happy the other night! I bet they will do the same for me again right now, and boy do I need some cheering up after the day I've had!"

  2. NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCY - Your brain is wired to eat, my friend. Fight it if you wish, but you won't win. You might die trying though. If you offer your body a smorgasbord of hyperpalatable yet nutrient-void foods centered on the irresistible trifecta of sugar-salt-fat, your brain will tell you to eat as much as you possibly can, in hopes that somehow you will consume enough to get the nutrients your body so desperately needs. This is especially true if you have skimped on meals all day (I find this to be very common with women), sending your body and brain into a state of deprivation. Sadly, though, we are never going to secure those nutrients from a bag of Doritos, a sleeve of Oreos, and a glass of wine, or from a plate of cheese fries and a large Diet Coke. Overfed and undernourished...that's the end result.

  3. EXHAUSTION - When you're routinely not sleeping well and not sleeping enough, your brain is going to insist that you consume quick-hitting, energy-boosting carbs to get you through your day. In fact, your brain will insist often (probably every 2-3 hours), leading you on the roller coaster ride that is insulin resistance and eventually - without appropriate intervention - Type 2 diabetes, which is not really a disease so much as it is a condition of poor lifestyle and dietary choices.

  4. STRESS - Stress comes in many forms, but your body is designed to handle it in just a few ways. Perhaps you remember this from high school biology - fight, flight, or freeze. This is the sympathetic response of our nervous system, and it can be a lifesaver under the right circumstances. But if this reaction is constantly turned ON (as a result of behaviors that are out of sync with our human design), your brain assumes you are constantly fighting to survive or preparing to escape danger, resulting in even more stress. The outcome? You seek out additional calories to help prepare you for more of the same - fighting or fleeing. Before you know it, you're face-first into a pint of Ben and Jerry's, or working your way through a box of Cheez-Its like it's an Olympic sport. The body wants quick energy, and FAST. And even better if it tastes like a dream. The only way to throw a wrench into this destructive cycle (for poor quality food is also a stressor, by the way), is to address and resolve the stress itself. Or at the very least mitigate it with healthier outlets (such as a nap, a relaxing walk, time in nature, a warm shower, a cup of tea, a nourishing meal, or just some silence).

  5. HORMONAL DYSFUNCTION - Prolonged inactivity, chronic endurance workouts or intense exercise patterns, sleep deprivation, lack of down time, lack of nature time, unfulfilling relationships, crappy diet, nutrient depletion...when we live in discordance with our God-given design, our hormones suffer, which means WE SUFFER. Talk to any woman having a rough time with menopause, and she'll tell you all about it!

The good news is that we can make incredible improvements in all of these areas if we are willing to do the work, and finally put those cravings to rest.

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