Monday, October 29, 2012

A Pill To Stop Cravings

You're sitting there, watching television, when you get a craving for something sweet.  You reach for the bag of marshmallows and eat just one.  Then, you go back to the cabinet and get two more.  Then, because you're tired of getting up and down, you grab the bag and bring it to your chair and keep popping them right in your mouth.  Be honest, does this sound like you?  Maybe your addiction isn't marshmallows, but when there's nothing else in the house that will satisfy that sweet tooth, marshmallows will do.  You apologize to the children because that bag of marshmallows were supposed to be for the campfire smores Friday night, and you assure them that you'll get another bag.  But, you're not satisfied, you're not sure what you want...maybe it's something salty and fatty, like chips, so you reach for the bag of chips, bring it to your chair and start mindlessly eating.  Before you know it, it's half empty and you feel guilty and gross.  You shouldn't have done it.  You know better.  You lack self control.  You hate yourself and your body.  You'll do better tomorrow.

But don't feel too bad.  It's happened to almost all of us at some time in our life.

Cravings are an intense desire for a certain food.  Mostly, we crave foods called hyperpalatables:  sugary, starchy, fatty, salty foods.  While I could go into great depths on WHY we crave, the simplified, short and skinny (no pun intended) is that cravings are part of a cycle.
  1. You crave sugary, starchy, fatty or salty foods.
  2. You eat (sugary, starchy, fatty, salty foods), which increases glucose.
  3. Increased glucose produces dopamine.
  4. Increased dopamine produces a "happy feeling".
  5. You repeat the behavior because you want the "happy feeling".
  6. You feel guilty, and your stress increases.
  7. Stress increases cortisol production.
  8. Excess cortisol increases your cravings. (Go back to step one).
  9. Excess cortisol increases your abdominal/belly fat.  (Go back to step six).
 What you have to do is break the chain of events.  Therein lies the hard part.  Scientists spend thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars (private and publicly funded) to explain why we crave and why we can't stop. Some of the reasons are:
  • Our brain doesn't work properly (hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, etc...)
  • Our hormones don't work properly (endorphin, serotonin, dopamine)
  • Our genes (DNA) are/are not "turned on"
 But whatever the reasons, you're the one that's trying to do something about it.  Or, maybe you're just looking for a pill to stop the cravings.  Yes, there are several pills out there.  I'm not going to mention them because you can use google as easily as I can.  What I will tell you is that there are mouth sprays to decrease the "taste" for sweets, pills to decrease what the taste buds taste, pills for metabolism, and herbs to decrease the mouth "taste", to name a few.  But, I don't think they will work and I don't think you should spend your money on them.  I don't like pills to fix the problems.

What you should do is spend your efforts on changing your lifestyle a little bit at a time.  Focus on physical activity, meditation, and healthy food choices.

I've detailed much of my discussion on cravings in a 4 page handout on Cravings:  The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.  Please feel free to download it, read it, give it to your client or friend.  Let me know (email me) if you have any questions and I'll be happy to answer them, or refer you to someone who can help, if I cannot.  Your health is important and there's no more excuses.  Perhaps I can help you.

Live healthy, live clean, live active!

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