I don’t know about you, but for some reason this week I could not shake the yearning for ANYTHING chocolate! On Monday I tried to satisfy my sweet tooth with a homemade Maple Carob Zucchini Muffin, hoping that sweet combination would strike my blood stream and work its magic. Although delicious, it did not do the trick. On Tuesday I turned to a Chocolate Peppermint Luna Bar. However, that only held me over temporarily and then there it was…the kind of chocolate craving that would make you steal candy from a baby!
For those of you wondering, “Where do cravings come from?”, here’s the 411.
- Your brain. The brain is a powerhouse for so many functions, including the memory center. The memory center stimulates the “reward” recognition your body receives when you eat many of the common foods involved with cravings, such as chips, cookies, candy, french fries, etc. Once you eat the craved food, our brain goes crazy in the reward region, continuing your heightened desire to want more.
- Your emotions. Think about the last time you became stressed out, upset or angry when something set you off. Or, maybe you got a promotion, scored an A on that huge paper, or won the lotto (we can dream, right?!). Whatever the emotion, food is often turned to as a coping mechanism.
- Your sleep (or lack thereof). Sleep is something that can really make or break the intensity of your cravings and ability to “cave or behave” when it comes to self-control. When your body does not get the rest needed, you are more likely to turn to food to keep your engine (body) running.
- Your daily diet. If you deprive yourself and only eat certain types of foods, your body at some point will begin to crave what you have eliminated from your diet. Rather than restrict yourself, focus on eating a variety of foods in moderation. Studies and countless #reallife experiences demonstrate deprivation of foods labeled as “bad” will only lead to an increased desire for the food, decreasing your ability to practice self-control when exposed to the food.
So, what does THIS dietitian turn to when she caves? Well folks, it depends on the nature of my craving. Since this week it was chocolate, I set out on a mission to make deliciously moist extra-chocolaty brownies (partially because I knew I wanted to lick the bowl!). I allowed myself the freedom to have at it in the kitchen, combining different combinations of sweet chocolate to create a unique treat (recipe coming soon). Yes, I did still use my arsenal of Simple-Swaps (egg whites, 0% fat Greek yogurt, almond milk, etc.), however I was satisfied and felt content.
Is this always the case? No! Sometimes I crave a donut and I go for it. I know when I am able to identify the food I am craving, I can have an APPROPRIATE portion (MODERATION is key) and satisfy my craving. However, sometimes I know the craving is not actually food related, and a hike or run will ease my craving more so than a slice of pizza or cookie.
What’s important when it comes to cravings is for you to recognize your craving, evaluate your emotional state, and come up with a few Simple-Swaps to try when you know the food will not suffice. In the end, it’s not always the calorie dense choice that will satisfy you; maybe a walk with your dog, a phone call to a friend, or a few deep breaths is just what you need.