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I Love You, Sugar ( … and fat, … and salt)

ice-cream-picklesFood cravings have evolved beyond the quaint “pickles and ice cream” hankerings of pregnant women to full-blown addictions, by some definitions.

Any of this sound familiar?

Omg, I’m dying for a slice of that Mega Meat-Lovers Stuffed-Crust pizza!

A Peanut Butter Brownie Buster Parfait would really hit the spot right now.

I’m only gonna eat of few of these Doritos … stop eating, Stop Eating, STOP EATING!!!

The food cravings that torment us are part biology, part psychology, part opportunity. But they are entirely maddening, and to lose weight we must figure out how to outsmart them.

In our Modern Wonderland of Food it is next to impossible to isolate them, but let’s take a look at the top culprits and assess their damage and their control over us.

Sugar: Without a doubt, we are hard-wired to crave sugar. Our tongues are mapped out with receptors for it and our bodies put it to immediate use. It is readily available for energy (hence the term “sugar rush”) and our ancestors could tell instantly if a wild berry or plant was safe to eat because of its sweetness. Fast forward a few thousand years and we’re bombarded with a plethora of sugars (some natural, some made in a lab) that are present in everything from yogurt to ketchup. And don’t forget, your body metabolizes highly-refined starches just the same as it does simple sugars, so white bread, white rice and processed potatoes (that is, french fries) are no different than soda pop.

Salt: Like sugar, there are evolutionary reasons why we crave salt. A natural preservative, salt provides electrolytes that are essential to proper body functioning. Processed food manufacturers, however, are hardly concerned with your electrolyte balance. They know that salt makes food taste good. And if a little salt makes food taste a little better, a lot of salt makes food taste a lot better! Imagine what Cheez-Its or Doritos would taste like without salt. Tasteless cardboard, I expect.

Fat: Had you been alive a few thousand years ago your body’s fat stores would have served you well. Alas, storing enough fat isn’t really a problem for most of us now. Scientists know that the chemical reactions happening in our brains when we eat high-fat, high-calorie foods are eerily similar to using cocaine or heroin.

You shouldn’t be surprised that you feel helpless in the face of these foods. In fact, not only is your biology working against you, but food manufacturers are working very hard to make sure you cannot resist. In their zeal to get us to buy their processed rubbish, food scientists have figured out how to tap into our brains’ reward centers, creating feelings of pleasure and a sense of calm. These “happy hormones” are easily abused though and we can find ourselves trapped in a cycle of chasing the rush after coming down off a buzz, all the while unknowingly upping the ante so that we need more and more of the food just to even feel “normal.”

Feeling like you’re biologically doomed by your cravings, and at the mercy of lab technicians who’ve hooked you on their line and are reeling you in?

You’re in luck. The Food Cravings Support Group meets here again tomorrow at the same time. Come back and we’ll discuss how to start craving the good stuff.

Losing weight is hard, but it gets easier when you’re armed with information and strategies to help you cope with cravings. And you’re so damn worth it!

Let’s go get it!

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