Monday, September 18, 2006

What Causes Food Cravings?

Food Cravings

Research has shown that food cravings are usually triggered by certain emotions. The best way to stop these urges is to record what foods you crave during certain emotional states. And then find healthier alternatives to these food products and/or try to curb or change that specific emotional condition.

Three studies were conducted on common emotions associated with food cravings. These included cravings caused by stress, anger and depression. It was found that people under stress produce a hormone called cortisol.

A recent study suggested subjects with higher levels of cortisol were likely to eat more during stress. (1) A couple of ways to alleviate stress is to get out of the situation, go outside for a walk, do some pushups, listen to your favorite music, anything to escape the rat race.

Another study from the University of Wurzburg, Germany suggested the number one emotion that triggers food cravings in women is anger. Anger makes women desire sweets because of a hormone released in the brain. (2) The best way to cure that is to sit back, take a few deep breaths, and collect your thoughts. Try to look or re-think the situation in calm manner. It helps to sometimes look at the situation from the other person’s point of view. Just letting go can release you from its grasp.

The other emotion is depression. It involves the same hormone as with anger called serotonin. People look for sweets as a means for comfort and solace. Many studies have shown that exercise is a good cure for depression. According to a study at Duke University, walking for just 14 minutes reversed negative feelings by 82%. (3) Participation in a program of regular exercise would therefore be very good advice.

In order to do something about these emotional triggers you must be conscious of them. Keep a daily record of every time you eat and record the psychological state you were in. Once you recognize these food patterns, you must take alternative actions. One solution is to get more active. Start participating in a group sport or regular exercise program. Find a partner to exercise with. This will make it easier to stick with your plan.

The benefit of exercise is tenfold. By exercising more, you reduce the time spent at home, also reducing the likelihood of snacking. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and improve your psychological condition. Regular physical activity also helps to reduce weight, maintain weight loss, improve your appearance and most likely your self esteem as well.

References:

1, 2, 3 www.detnews.com, “Don’t fall for the triggers that cause food cravings”, retrieved 25 Aug. 2005 from http://www.detnews.com/2001/health/0104/09/h06-208118.htm
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