Why we crave sweets and snacks, how to fight it
Muffins, chips, chocolate. We crave them because they increase the secretion of the mood-elevating brain chemical serotonin. Sweet and starchy foods make us feel better, at least temporarily. But the hunger for serotonin sets up a destructive cycle of craving that can't be satisfied.
Depression, anxiety and seasonal affective disorder all cry out for the medicating effect of carbohydrates. What's worse is that some of the medications for relieving these conditions ratchet-up our appetites and contribute to the problem. But if we're giving in to cravings for the wrong food, we're going to gain weight, suffer the "sugar roller coaster ride" and find ourselves wanting more.
What do you crave?
"We have a sensory memory or template for the food that will satisfy the craving," says Marcia Levin Pelchat, PhD, sensory psychologist. "The food we eat has to match that template for the craving to be satisfied," she says. "It's as if our brain is saying, 'It has to be chocolate ice cream, lemon pie just won't do.'" Sound familiar? Sugar gives us a blast of energy, but it's followed by a crash. The spiking and dropping of blood sugar levels leaves us feeling chronically exhausted. And the sugar craving gets worse.
Control the cravings with a healthy diet
If you find that you're frequently eating when you're not hungry, eating until you're uncomfortably full, being secretive about your eating, or feeling like you're eating is out of control, talk to your doctor about the possibility that you could have an eating disorder.