Cravings get such a bad wrap in the world. We’re constantly told that we should be “curbing” our cravings and if we have a strong pull towards a certain food, then we’re addicted to it. But is having a craving a bad thing that should be squashed? And if we have them, where are they coming from?
It’s not a coincidence that the foods we often crave are the foods that we’re constantly told aren’t good for us.
Think about it.
Most of the foods that we’re craving and “addicted” to are the exact foods that diet culture has us working towards removing and restricting on a daily basis. We’re bombarded with messages about how carbs and sugar are the worst things in the world for us and that we’re either addicted to them or shouldn’t be craving them.
Perhaps it’s time to look at the messaging rather than the food.
It’s my experience that the more we try to restrict a behavior or food, the more we want it and crave it. When we restrict so strongly and for a long period of time, this can lead to a strong emotional reaction that leads to a binge. I’m looking at you, sugar cleanses and Whole30s.
Let’s break it down a for a second.
We remove certain foods from our diet for an extended period of time – we isolate ourselves socially, nutritionally, and fight our urges to have ONE piece of food on the “restricted” list. We fight. We fight. We resist. We resist. And we wait until the diet protocol is done and then we resolve that our cravings and addiction is finally cured. Praise BE! But what happens next is a BINGE. We go wild on it because you know… WE DID IT! We are “cured” and therefore having the sugar now won’t spiral as it has in the past.
Makes sense, if we’re addicted, we need to break the addiction and then we’ll be fine.
There is a LARGE flaw in this theory – it assumes that we’re chemically addicted to sugar the same way we get chemically addicted to let’s say opiates and nicotine. And we’re not. It’s emotional.
Note: And we’re not addicted- not generally. Sure, we might have candida overgrowth with bacteria that may intensify our cravings for certain foods – but again, we’re not chemically addicted.
There is research that sugar consumption stimulates the dopamine receptors in the brain similarly to drugs – but this research also states that the preference for sugar over cocaine could be due to the fact that cocaine also stimulates brain stress pathways that activate fear and anxiety. We need more information and research to draw a hard and fast line here. In my clinical experience, sugar “addiction” is typically more prominent in the restrict/binge cycle. If you want to read the research, please see the bottom of this blog for the reference.
When we restrict to this level we become so engrossed and distracted in our food choices, that we become compulsory in our response to it. Generally, I see this reaction emotionally, stressed, and HUNGER based. You’re hungry, stressed, and stressed about being hungry. Not to mention, you’re feeling bad about yourself because “it didn’t work for you” or “you didn’t have the discipline”.
That’s the thing – the cravings aren’t because you’re addicted to a food, it’s rooted deeply in the ongoing restriction response. More restriction is not the resolution. Easing up is. So, eat the cupcake. Have the sandwich. And then move on.
You did not fail.
You are not addicted.
You are restricted.
Emotionally, Physically, and Mentality you’re better off by satisfying your craving – Is there really anything better than having a slice of pizza when you’ve been thinking about it all day?
Satisfying a craving is far less inflammatory than being in a constant restrict/binge cycle.
Some of you reading this might be shaking your head and saying… some of those foods are inflammatory and we need to remove them for therapeutic reasons. I do not disagree with this, but I do want you to question for yourself – are you truly ready for an elimination protocol?