How many times have you accused yourself of lack of discipline because of your food cravings?
How many times do your commitment plans get screwed up because of your urge to eat?
Do you feel bad because your cravings could get out of control?
Do you feel trapped in your bad eating habits?
So does your brain, It’s the Emotional Eating Disorder!
If you think you are the only one responsible for your eating disorder, then you are carrying unnecessarily a heavy burden alone.
Yes, the solution is in your hands.
However, your issue is a shared responsibility between yourself, your serotonin level, dopamine level, GABA, vitamin B, Calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and your appetite-regulating network (ARN).
In short, it is a shared responsibility between yourself, your brain, your guts, and your nervous system.
So, lighten up, you are not the only villain out there, yet, you are the one who can make all parties come together to fix this problem.
But first, we need to understand what is happening inside our bodies as well as our genetics from a very early age.
The Anatomy of Food Craving
1- Genetic Disorder
As early as pregnancy, our minds could be programmed to crave more food.
This overfeeding inhibits the body’s capacity to feel more balanced and satisfied.
Consequently, eating disorder could result from a genetic disorder.
However, the good news is, this root cause is not as powerful or as common as other food craving reasons.
2- Serotonin Level
One of the most common reasons though for food craving is low serotonin level.
Serotonin is a critical neurotransmitter responsible for mood regulation, cognitive behavior, sleeping, appetite, digestion, and sexual functionality.
A decrease in this chemical’s level can result in food craving, depression, anxiety, insomnia, overthinking, low self-esteem, phobias or panic attacks!
However, Serotonin is produced mostly in our guts!
When we eat food rich in sugar our body releases insulin to deal with this increased sugar level.
The process of sugar removal removes all amino acids except for tryptophan.
Thus, tryptophan can enter the brain without competition from other amino acids increasing serotonin level.
This explains why our body craves sugars and carbohydrates sometimes, as to our bodies they are easy serotonin boosters.
Accordingly, craving could be our body’s way to re-reach balance.
Caffeine release serotonin and noradrenaline increasing their concentration in the brainstem.
This increased concentration numbs the neuron’s response to serotonin as well as decrease dopamine.
The downside though is that constant intakes of sugars, carbohydrates or caffeine will increase serotonin around the neurons, keeping them for a longer time.
This leads to decreasing the level of dopamine, which in term increase cravings, and you are stuck in this vicious loop.
But what does dopamine have to do with all the cravings?
3- Dopamine Level
Whenever our brain feels good about something it releases dopamine.
That’s why every time you are feeling low or unhappy your brain will push you towards the activities that usually make it feel happy.
Yet, the frequent release of dopamine would reduce its effectiveness and hence increase your cravings.
To the brain “enjoying food is feeling good” this association is what makes food cravings persisting.
Your brain’s urge for cravings is a natural reaction, however, it is not only food that your brain craves.
It is anything that makes it feel good.
So, if you give your brain other more beneficial “feel good” activities like exercising, your brain can push you to exercise rather than eating.
4- Vitamin D
Serotonin depends on light, that is why it is always better to exercise in daylight as it increases the serotonin level.
5- Chronic Stress
Facing this hectic world alone every day is enough stress already, yet, not knowing how to deal with it is a killer.
Not only does this leaves you with chronic stress, which steals your health, but also ruins your psychological and physical health.
As too much stress would eat up your serotonin, which causes your body to release more of it to counter the stress.
This loop is continuous, so, it will eventually result in serotonin numbness, as a result of the too much serotonin release.
6- Leptin Hormone
Leptin hormone shares part of the responsibility as well, for it is proper functionality prevents cravings.
Too much eating and hence too many fats in the body increases this hormone and hence makes the body insensitive to Leptin, inhibiting its function.
This would result in an eating disorder as the brain’s self-regulator lost its voice.
Moving to GABA, a neurotransmitter that calms down your brain.
When your brain is on fire it looks for any mean to calm it down, and what an easier way to do so than to eat!
So, the brain does push you to eat in order to calm itself down.
But don’t blame because you started it.
8- Appetite Regulating Network (ARN)
This is more of your appetite relay and is influenced by your external environment as well as by the things you throw inside your body.
It is its interface.
It is where the messages coming from our hormones as well as our nervous system meet.
Our nervous system is the way we communicate with our outer worlds as well as our inner systems.
As a result of the communication going back and forth all the time, our hormone levels, as well as neurotransmitters, are determined.
This sophisticated process is governed by our hypothalamus.
Our hypothalamus is responsible for our metabolism, digestive system, as well as our fight or flight i.e adrenaline.
This communicated information is based on our perceptions, experience, and interactions, resulting in how we feel about what’s happening around us.
So, the quality of the life you are leading plays a very important role in what is happening inside your body.
Not only on the psychic level but also on the bigger scale of functionality.
Summing all this up, craving is a bad action with good intention.
If you go through stressful days with little sleep, long to-do lists, and very poor nutrition, then don’t expect yourself to eat that yogurt in front of the television at night.
If this is your normal day routines, then disciplining yourself at night is a very unrealistic expectation.
You are technically starving your body and brain of almost everything while expecting it to self-regulate!
Know that your brain is your friend, not the enemy,
However, in order to keep you safe, it might sometimes take the shortcuts.
The shortcut though depends on the severity of the situation and its emergency.
So, if you are leading a low-quality life with stress eating you alive,as well as emotional suffering, and you are feeding your body junk, then expect cravings to be a lifestyle.
However, if you are determined to take a grip of the sequence of these unhealthy habits, then you need a plan.
First, do not leave your body hungry.
You must have something to eat every couple of hour, and don’t let your body become hungry or starve it.
Second, eat like kings, eat with quality.
Nutrient deficiency leads to chronic overeating.
So, include protein in your breakfast, high-quality fats in your diet and avoid empty calorie food.
These empty calories are our worst enemies.
They melt in your mouth misleading your brain that is it not eating much.
Eventually, you eat more guilt free.
Third, give your brain actual rewards.
Do not let your brain feel good from food.
Give it something in your life to feel good about, something real.
Fourth, give your body some Sun.
Let the Sunlight up your body inside and out, because Sun makes you happy and increases your serotonin level naturally.
Fifth, move your body.
Include even ten minutes of easy exercising every day.
Start with something easy and does not need much preparation so that it can blend smoothly in your routine.
Finally, fight the monster, and don’t run.
Whenever you get your cravings, don’t give in to low-quality choice.
Respond with the real need, not the easy fake one.