The Crave Game
Thursday, January 8, 2015
LifeTime WeightLoss in Anika Christ, Cravings, Mindset, Nutrient Deficiency, Sugar, salt

Do your food cravings get the best of you? 

Do you believe you just need more willpower to control them?

For most of us, at some point food cravings creep up on us. For some of us, however, cravings become a constant barrier to our health and weight loss goals, often causing us to feel out of control with our eating. We should be capable of gathering enough willpower to ignore them, we tell ourselves, but more often than not, we come up short. 

Consider a different understanding of your battle for a moment. What if cravings had little to do with willpower and more to do with physiology? 

The Things We Crave

The two most common food cravings are salt or sugar. They're so common that nutrition coaches generally ask about each particular craving in most consultations. Unfortunately, these cravings often lead us to low quality food choices like processed foods. It’s important to take note of “what” you crave, however. Identifying whether you're a sugar craver or a salt craver will help you identify what’s causing it. Some of my clients have a definitive sweet tooth, while others go back and forth between sugar and salt. 

Why We Crave

Have you ever caught yourself saying “I just need more willpower" or "I just can’t say no to my cravings"?  Most people believe that cravings are strictly psychological. They blame their lack of willpower for their lack of success. Yet, most cravings are actually derived from some sort of physiological imbalance going on inside, including nutrient deficiencies, stress hormones, or even lack of sleep. If any of these factors are part of the equation, you'll be operating at a decided disadvantage battling your cravings.

The Crave Game

So, where do you start in figuring out where your cravings are coming from? Check out the infographic below to help you identify your particular cravings source. Once you determine that, look below to figure out your action strategies for getting - and keeping - the upper hand!

High Stress Craver:  High stress cravers predominantly crave sugar at the times of the day when their stress hormones are most elevated. The culprit for these folks is the elevated stress hormone, cortisol, which the body releases in response to stress. Supplements, such as ReloraPlus, can help dampen cortisol and, in turn, decrease your cravings. Another best practice is doing meditation or other relaxation techniques at high stress times to help cortisol levels normalize. 

Adrenal Fatigue CraverAdrenal fatigue cravers want salt. Under chronic stress, the body depletes its natural sodium stores, leaving the body craving what it needs. Adrenal fatigue sets in with long term, chronic stress. The body can no longer keep up with cortisol production, often leaving the person with low energy and fatigue. To help curb these related cravings in the short term, add a crystal or two of Celtic or Himilayan sea salt to your water bottle. For best, long-term results, assess your stress hormones to confirm adrenal fatigue and consult a health professional about designing a lifestyle protocol.

Sleep Craver: Sleep cravers crave sugar in the morning and/or all throughout the day. Inadequate sleep alters our natural ability to manage blood sugars, causing more dramatic blood sugar fluxuations and (in turn) increased cravings. If you are a sleep craver, the easiest way to manage is to get more rest!  Utilize sleep support techniques such as assessing and adjusting your sleep environment, allowing your body enough time to sleep (between 7-8 hours), and/or using sleep related supplementation such as melatonin. If you are unsure about the quality of your sleep, start by assessing with a sleep tracking device. 

Sweet/Salt Tooth Craver:  If you’ve landed under this label, your current diet is most likely increasing your cravings. Processed foods have become the norm in the American diet. Because they are far from their whole-food forms, they contain only small amounts of vitamins, minerals and fiber. They're also heavily loaded with artificial ingredients, sugar and salt, which will influence your taste buds and cause your body to want more. Your best bet is to start decreasing these foods and start replacing them with whole foods, such as natural proteins, fats, vegetables and some fruit.  As you transition to a more whole food diet, those cravings should start to wane. 

Nutrient Deficiencies:  If you landed here, you are most likely either consuming a food your body isn’t processing well (leading to increased cravings for that food) or you are deficient in a certain vitamin or mineral. Start first by identifying a food you overconsume (e.g. milk) and eliminate it for 3 weeks. If your cravings subside after fully eliminating the food, you are in luck. If not, you may benefit from doing a food sensitivity test that identifies food(s) to which your body negatively reacts. Make sure you are taking a high quality multivitamin and multimineral. Magnesium deficiency has often been linked to an increase in cravings. 

Are cravings a consistent impediment to your weight loss? Talk with a dietitian today. Thanks for reading.

In health, Anika Christ – Senior Program Manager of Life Time Weight Loss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.



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