Medical Weight Loss Secrets: Controlling Cravings

Control cravings for fast weight loss. Cravings are intense desires or urges for a particular substance-a drug, alcohol, or a food, even in the absence of hunger. Obese prone individuals have a heightened awareness of food as compared to thin people. Hunger is that growling in the stomach when have gone long periods without eating. The color, shape, and smell of certain foods often bring back stored pleasure experiences in our brain and the need to eat or drink. Often the consumption of craved food and drinks results in calmness and pleasure. That is what makes controlling cravings so difficult.

Cravings are extremely hard to control since this behavior may have been going on for 20 or 30 years. Controlling cravings is a major issue for many dieters!

How Controlling Cravings Can Result in Rapid & Permanent Weight Loss

Cravings can be very destructive when drugs and alcohol are involved. Food cravings can be one of the major contributors to obesity. The causes of craving is as varied as the substance craved: nutritional deficiencies, hormonal changes, metabolic changes, anxiety, and depression are among the causative factors. Many craved food are high in calories, carbs, fat and even salt. Here are examples of some of the most “craved” foods.

Who are The “Cravers”?
28% of women and 13% of men report cravings. Dieters report much higher levels of food cravings than non-dieters.

Are Cravings an Addiction?
No, cravings are not addictions, although they can seem like it. Foods and drinks that are craved give pleasure and calmness to the person, but are not really addictions. Dr. Richard Surwit from Duke University Medical Center says “People eat sugar because it tastes good. To call them addicts is ridiculous.” Addiction occurs when there are predictable physical symptoms after stopping the substance. This has NOT been reported with sugar or any other food.

Cravings vs. Hunger vs. Low Blood Sugar vs. Emotions:

One should not confuse low blood sugar and hunger for cravings. The shaky, moody, and sleeping feelings one gets after going long periods of time without foods which quickly disappear with eating protein or carbs is low blood sugar. They are predictable and not influenced by any outside factor. The growling in our stomach is hunger. Most cravings occur when we are not hungry and are fuelled by what we see, smell and even think.

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Certain foods and drinks, often high in sugar, carbs, fat and even salt activate receptors in the pleasure  centers of the mid brain, increase serotonin and dopamine and stimulate the individual to eat more and more of these foods. These are termed, “trigger foods” because they produce immediate pleasures and calm feelings. For many they are often overwhelming, resulting in more and more searching for these kinds of foods.

These so-called “gateway or trigger foods” make you feel out of control, maybe even physically unable to stop reaching for more, in part because of their addictive effect on your mind and body. They stimulate the same centers in the brain as cocaine, heroin and alcohol. Since many of these foods are socially accepted (compared to cocaine, heroin, etc.). restricting them is not so easy. Once you’ve taken that first bite, watch out.

“Tasting food engages all of your senses (and may be felt more intensely in women than in men, for unknown reasons). Your nervous system responds by secreting insulin (which drops blood glucose) and relaxing your stomach muscles, which makes you feel like you need to eat more to be satisfied,” says Susan Roberts, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at Tufts University and coauthor of The “I” Diet.

Cravings and Brain Receptors

Kelly McGonial, PhD. from Stanford, writes:

“There’s a reason this tends to happen almost exclusively with fatty and sugary foods and not, say, lettuce. The saturated fats in foods like bacon and cheese impair your brain’s normal ability to regulate appetite and cravings, so you don’t realize you’re full until you’re completely stuffed.

What’s more, that effect on your appetite can last for up to three days, the length of time it takes to flush those fats from your system. So one unhealthy indulgence can end up triggering a major relapse. Add sugar to the fatty food—ice cream, cake, doughnuts—and you have a double whammy. High-sugar foods increase your levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite and increases cravings. So you may tell yourself ‘Just one bite’ but find yourself wanting more and more, the more you eat.”

In a study published in The Lancet in February 2001, Dr. Gene-Jack Wang found that obese people had less dopamine receptors in their brains than normal weight people Wang found that the heavier the subject, the lower the number of dopamine receptors. Dopamine is the chemical  in the brain that controls hunger, appetite and cravings as well as pleasure.

Sugar and Carbs Rapidly Turning to Sugar are the Keys

“Sugar also has been shown to enhance memory storage, which may explain why you want it in the first place, and so much of it on special social occasions. As a result, your brain has evolved a system of rewards that gives you a real high when you eat sugar. The brain responds to both sugar and fat by releasing endorphins,” says Dr.  Gary Wenk, Ph.D., author of Your Brain on Food. “Chemically, those feel-good compounds are similar to morphine and can have a biological impact similar to a shot of heroin—including causing you to look for another fix when the initial euphoria begins to fade” adds Dr Wenk. The result of eating these food is rapid weight gain, often without even realizing why.

Controlling Cravings Like a Pro

Controlling cravings entirely is tough, given that they can be brought on by stress, or even just thinking about eating. But there’s plenty you can do to ccontrol the cravings. Every meal or day is a chance to start over:

  1. Hiding or Removing Foods Causing Cravings:“Proximity to food influences how much of it you eat, says James Painter, R.D., a professor at Eastern Illinois University who studies behavioral eating. Try keeping healthy foods right where you can see them, and stash unhealthy ones in a hard-to-reach drawer—or just don’t keep them around at all.”
  2. Surround Yourself with Healthy, Cravings Satisfying Foods:This is not as hard as you might think. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of foods that satisfy cravings without causing weight gain. I call these foods and drinks, The Look-A-likes” All have high protein and low carbs.

Controlling Cravings with Sugar Free Snacks

The Look-Alikes

These are low calorie or 100 calorie bags of snacks and other portion controlled foods and drinks. They fool the brain into thinking it is eating the original. They may be either low carb, low fat, and/or low calories. It’s the packaging that’s the key. They are made using fibers that are not absorbed and sweetened with Splenda or aspartame. They include numerous new soft drinks, some fruit juices, low carb, low calorie candy, crackers, ice cream, bread, muffins, and even bagels and pizza.

Fooling Our Brain:

Our brains are not very smart and can be easily “fooled” into thinking many low calorie-low carb, portion controlled products are almost as good as the real thing. These foods can fool our brain because they have similar packaging, physical appearances, smells, oral sensations, textures, and tastes as their higher calorie originals. When eaten they go quickly into the brain and attach to the same receptors as the originals and release the same pleasure producing chemicals.

Since they have minimal effect on blood sugar, and fewer calories there are less metabolic consequences to eating them. The pre-portioned bags make portion control easier.

Eating These Foods Do Not Increase Cravings or Hunger:

Some diet plan authors suggest that they only give the dieter license to eat more bags or they really increase cravings. Anyone who has fought with controlling cravings knows that a portion controlled 100 calorie pack of chip or cookies does not increase anything. They provide the person trying to lose weight at least some degree of control, imperfect as it may be.

Look-Alikes in Drinks:

Diet sodas are the best example of using look-alikes. Diet coke is a good substitute for regular coke, but for some people that taste is not like regular soda. Coke Zero is even closer to regular coke and for many people who do not like diet sodas, it is a good choice.