Do you ever feel like your cravings are running the show?
It’s tough to break the wily alliance between junk food and the brain’s pleasure center. You want to look like the hot bikinied background extras on Burn Notice. But junk food tastes so good.
With summer fast-approaching, how can you tackle your love of food to get in shape?
The first step: understand where your cravings come from.
Willpower expert Kelly McGonigal, PhD, has an explanation for why we love trouble foods so much:
“It seems too clever, too diabolic to be true. A recent study shows that foods high in saturated fat—ice cream, cheese, red meat—cause your brain to secrete chemicals that tell the body to ignore biological signals of fullness (like leptin and insulin).”
The result, she says: “You don’t ‘feel’ full, and you keep eating.”
That’s why when you “cave” a little, you often end up caving a lot.
But can’t we control how much we eat? If we know the food is fattening, can’t we cut ourselves off at half-portion, even if we still feel hungry?
Cravings Get More Complicated
In response to a new policy working its way into the fast food industry, Wellsphere author Bruce Friedman asked this question: “Will posting calorie counts in fast food restaurants help curb obesity?”
Friedman went on to answer it: “Fast-food addicts gravitate to these restaurants because of convenience, price, and because the food tastes good to them. I seriously doubt that posting calorie information in fast-food restaurants goes to the root of the problem.”
Indeed, seeing the numbers might motivate some to scale back their orders, the New York Times explains. But so far, results have been unimpressive. Starbucks’ calorie-posting stint whipped up only a small change: customers cut calories back by about 6%.
So, they ordered a low-fat muffin or no food at all, but stuck with their Venti Caramel Frappuccinos.
(Speaking from past experience, Starbucks coffee is really, really addictive.)
Is it really enough to know that fast food is loaded with fat, salt and sugar? They’re our old friends, after all. We stand by them despite their flaws, and no matter what nasty things other people have said about them. Like Friedman says, fast food is easy, cheap, tasty and we’re addicted.
Why Dieting is a Double-edged Sword
Maybe you’ve managed to tame your cravings, saying good bye to old friends sugar, fat and salt. But how long can you hold out?
“Bad news for yo-yo dieters,” McGonigal warns. “According to a recent study, cycles of feast and famine can create fast-food junkies—at least in rodents.”
I don’t think we need to look at a lab rat experiment to know this is true. Almost everyone knows this familiar scenario: we resolve to eat right and get off to a strident start. No more ice cream! Then one wrong turn—we have a cone—and it’s all over. Bummed about indulging in the forbidden dessert, we stress out, get mad at ourselves, and seek solace in another scoop. Now we’re hooked, even more than before.
“Binge eating is a seductive beast,” writes Scale Junkie, who uses her blog to talk candidly about her weight loss challenge. She has experienced the vicious feast/famine cycle, saying: “The one element of this journey that I haven’t been able to reach the root of is why I self-sabotage my diet time and time again.”
Getting to the Root of the Problem
Okay, okay, you already know that cravings are evil and self-sabotage seems inevitable. But I wanted to drive home the reasons why adopting a healthy diet is so hard. It’s not simply a matter of rational decisions based on facts. If it were, we’d all look like Gabrielle Anwar.
The elusive “root” of cravings, addiction and self-sabotage lies deep in our subconscious. It’s hard to see or consciously control the workings of the unconscious mind. Hence, we often feel prey to—not in control of—our cravings.
So how can we skip fast food joints, when the truth about what we’re eating doesn’t matter? And how can we start eating healthier for good, rather than bouncing back and forth?
It is possible to make lasting positive changes to your diet. But you need to delve into your subconscious mind to make the adjustment. Ready to master your mind? Try this.