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Crave the Good Stuff

good-foodThe sugar / salt / fat cravings that drive the Wonderland of Food (aka our current American Diet) are nearly impossible to isolate. And that’s kind of the point; they work together to undermine you!

It’s not like you’re up late at night eating spoonfuls of granulated sugar, or tipping back a salt shaker into your mouth while watching the big game.

Getting a grip on your food cravings means undoing the pull of processed foods. Because that’s where the problem lies.

The food cravings that torment us are part biology, part psychology, part opportunity. In “I Love You, Sugar ( … and fat, … and salt)” we looked at the biology part of that equation, and there’s not much we can do about that. Our taste receptors and brain chemistry are hard-wired to seek out these flavors and “mouth-feels.”

But can we influence the psychology part and the opportunity part of that equation, so that we can choose differently?

Hell yes!

The psychology of cravings: This is, of course, emotional eating … with a little marketing thrown in by our friends in the processed food industry. Emotional eating is deep-rooted and I believe is the primary reason why most people who struggle with weight problems find themselves stuck. Denial, fear, hopelessness and shame direct our behavior, even when we’re unaware of it. If you haven’t already, watch the videos and read the blogs I’ve written that deal with these topics.

As far as the marketing goes, it’s not just Joe Camel and Ronald McDonald that influence our buying decisions. Every September I am simultaneously horrified and awestruck with the power of the “Pumpkin Spice” XanaxTM – I mean treats – that we’re all convinced will wrap us in a cocoon of fall comfort. Pullleeezz. Does it taste good? Of course! But it’s not comfort, or love, or anything other than a sugar bomb intended to separate us from our money.

The marketers’ pull only works because, on some level, we want it to. It works because we’re looking for a hole to fill.

Still don’t believe me? Read: The End of Overeating, by Dr. David A. Kessler, former FDA Commissioner. Best book I’ve ever read on the subject and completely life-changing.

The opportunity of cravings: Sure, there are tempting treats everywhere we look, but what about those late night cravings? You’re rummaging through the pantry, the fridge, the freezerthere’s gotta be something good in here, right?!?

But this is exactly the reason why my #1 Rule when it comes to weight loss is: unhealthy food doesn’t cross my threshold. New flash: I can’t control cravings either!!! Not all the time, anyway. So I don’t try! Instead, I set up my household to support my healthy living goals and work with me rather than against me.

Does any of this mean that we’ll start craving kale instead of Cinnabon? Ummmm, doubtful. But we can “retrain” our taste buds to enjoy the pure, unadulterated sweetness of a fresh peach rather than peach pie. A baked potato tastes great smothered in sautéed spinach that’s been cooked in EVOO, sprinkled with coarse salt and ground pepper. Is it the same as downing a bag of Doritos? Of course not! But it’s a great salty fix that will satisfy a craving without undoing our weight loss goals.

Cravings don’t have to leave you helpless. Understand your biological predilections, confront your psychological triggers, and structure your environment in a way that stifles your tendency to cave.

You have a choice; you are not doomed to be held hostage by this stuff for the rest of your life. Crave the good stuff.

C’mon, we got this!

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