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Old 06-27-2004, 04:30 PM   #1
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I came across this Washington Post article about food cravings that's worth passing along. It ties in with Jack's thread about triggers, since food cravings often are a big trigger for cheating:
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You Know You Crave It

By Sally Squires

Tuesday, June 22, 2004; Page HE01

There's the gooey chocolate brownie that calls your name. The bag of salty potato chips that seems irresistible. That unmistakable yearning for a juicy cheeseburger, hot fudge sundae or a slice of pepperoni pizza.

Food cravings are modern sirens that research shows regularly beckon 97 percent of women and 68 percent of men. Since few hanker for asparagus -- unless, of course, it's topped with hollandaise sauce -- cravings fuel chronic over-consumption of calories and help widen waistlines.

Those who fall under a food's spell frequently say they crave it for "a nutritional need," said Marcia Pelchat, an associate professor at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, a private research facility in Philadelphia. To test that theory, Pelchat and her colleagues put a group of healthy young adults on a liquid diet that provided plenty of calories and all the essential vitamins and minerals needed. Study participants still craved certain foods, suggesting, Pelchat said, that "nutritional deficits are not necessary for cravings."

So people don't crave chocolate for its magnesium or porterhouse steak because of the iron it provides. But their bodies are sending a message of desire to the brain. "It's a psychological need," said Adam Drewnowski, who researches food cravings at the University of Washington's Center for Public Health Nutrition in Seattle. "They're too stressed."

To compensate, the body "drives them in the direction of food, usually food with sugar and fat," said Drewnowski. "I often notice that offices with very stressful mental work and deadlines usually have bowls of M&M's around." That's because food rich in fat and sugar appears to boost the brain's production of endorphins, the so-called feel-good chemicals. "In essence, food is being used as a form of self-medication," noted Susan Yanovski, director of the Obesity and Eating Disorders Program at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in a paper published last year.

Studies suggest cravings are different for the citizens of Mars and Venus. Men are more likely to desire "mixtures of protein, fat and salt," such as roast beef, burgers, fries, steak, pizza and chips, Drewnowski said. Women yearn more often for sweet, high-carbohydrate, high-fat foods: cookies, ice cream, pasta, bread. And chocolate "is usually in the top five foods they crave," he said.

Since life isn't likely to get less stressful, here are some ways to help mute the call of food cravings:

Trick, not just treat. People generally crave foods with at least three calories per gram. So when a craving surfaces, try fulfilling it with the lowest calorie food possible. Think chocolate sorbet instead of chocolate ice cream; salted popcorn or pretzels instead of chips; "oven-fried" chicken vs. deep-fat fried.

Distract yourself. Time can weaken even the strongest cravings. So when a yearning for chocolate chip cookies arises, waiting just 15 to 20 minutes "will sometimes allow a craving to pass -- if you get involved in other things," Yanovski said. Physical activity -- walking up and down a few flights of stairs in your building, taking a stroll around the block -- can serve both as a distraction and help to diminish cravings.


Variety really is the spice. In Pelchat's study of food cravings, participants drank a slightly sweet, vanilla-flavored beverage that fulfilled all their daily nutritional needs. The researchers thought this regimen would dull food cravings. But the study found that participants' cravings rose three to four times higher for salty and other non-sweet foods. "People crave something that differs in sensory quality" from their normal diet, Pelchat said, noting that this is another good reason to eat a wide variety of food with different tastes and textures.

Get the real thing. Instead of trying to eat your way past the craving with other foods, have what you really want. Just make it a small portion. "Go for the most intense taste possible, like a chocolate truffle, or a small square of bitter chocolate," Drewnowski said. "Sometimes, cravings are not satisfied except by the real thing."

Keep "trigger" foods out of the house. That way, when they beckon, you'll have to go out of your way to get them. Just seeing the food--or getting a whiff of a something you love to eat -- can also help trigger cravings and undermine resolve. If you do still indulge in one of your trigger foods, buy a single serving -- an ice cream cone, one candy bar or a small order of fries -- that can be consumed in one sitting.

Deconstruct your craving. Most overwhelming desires for food mask other emotional states, for example, feeling tired, stressed, bored, anxious or angry. "Figure out what's going on," Yanovski said. And then take action. "If you're tired, take a nap," she said. "If you're stressed, take a walk. If you're angry, talk to a friend."

© 2004 The Washington Post Company
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp...nguage=printer,
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Old 06-28-2004, 08:49 PM   #2
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The variety thing is interesting because other studies have shown that too much variety leads to weight gain. I know that's the case for me. I end up eating the same things a lot of the time because too much variety = too much food for me. I have found that I can buy mini Nestle Crunch bars for my family to eat and leave them alone 99% of the time. But if I buy mini peanut butter cups too, I end up eating some of each. That's so weird, but it even happens for me with fruit. If I have more than 2 or 3 kinds of fruit at home I end up eating more fruit than if I only have 2.
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Old 06-28-2004, 08:56 PM   #3
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I've read those studies too -- they call it the buffet phenomenon -- we eat more when we have more choices. I know that's true in my case too! So I like to say that I'm boring my taste buds into submission by eating the same things most of the time. When I look at my Fitday account, I eat about fifteen foods, over and over again. And I'm perfectly content.
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Old 06-28-2004, 09:56 PM   #4
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LOVE that 'deconstruct your craving' point. INVARIABLY, when i want something REALLY BADLY, i'm either thirsty, tired, or stressed. in that order. so i do the HOT TEA distraction. a nice big mug of hot tea, maybe even chai. and some deep breathing. and if i STILL really want that evil something, i generally make another cup. or say that i can have it after i do something else, like take a walk. or eat a meal. and by that time, i've forgotten about it...
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Old 06-29-2004, 12:26 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack-150
I guess the best thing is don't buy them at all! Who would have thought of that?
Well, I know many of you feel differently, but I maintain my weight by eating anything I want in moderate portions. So I continue to buy food that isn't necessarily "healthy" because I refuse to deny myself anything. Okay, well I make ice cream the exception. That seems to be the one thing I absolutely cannot have in my house without eating too much of it. I don't buy tons of junk food, but a mini Nestle Crunch or a handful of potato chips once in a while isn't going to cause me to suddenly regain the 47 pounds I've lost so far (with 5 more to go!).
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Old 06-29-2004, 01:01 PM   #6
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Congrats on the 47 pounds! Obviously you're doing something right!

You hit the nail on the head with your post because it's all about finding out what works for YOU and what YOU can live with for the rest of your life! It doesn't matter what I do or what works for anyone else -- only you can discover the lifestyle that is sustainable for you in the long term. It sounds like you've got a great plan that's working very well for you.
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Old 06-29-2004, 01:25 PM   #7
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This brings up some interesting things for me.

1. When I started my way of eating, I didn't eat anything I wanted. But over the course of the last 11 months, it somehow evolved into eating what I want. I've gone back and tried some regular pasta or white bread and it turns out I don't like it after all. My tastes have evolved to where I actually do crave asparagus instead of ice cream. Weird.

2. I think there's a big difference between variety in what you eat and variety in what's available all at once. Going to picnics or potlucks where a large variety of food is available all at once can be deadly because we want to try everything. However, having a large variety of foods/recipes that I can choose from to have has been my saving grace. There are hundreds of things I can try out and experiment with so I never feel bored with my food. This is especially good for me because if my food is interesting, I pay more attention to it and don't slip back into my old habit of mindless eating (you know that one? "Woah! Where did that whole bowl of popcorn go?")
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Old 06-29-2004, 04:13 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack-150
Yes I must echo Meg's congratulations, from the tone of your first post I took it that you were having a problem controlling your impulse to eat a limited quantity. Obviously I misunderstood! Most people trying to lose weight don't quite have the same system as you.
Yes, I only meant that I had a problem when I had too much variety available. If I have five kinds of chips in the cupboard I have a problem, but if I have only Pringles, I don't. I know it's weird, but there you go... Susan
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Old 06-29-2004, 04:15 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StarPrincess

I've gone back and tried some regular pasta or white bread and it turns out I don't like it after all.
I know what you mean. This past weekend we went out to eat to a dive that didn't have one single healthy thing on the menu. I decided I'd have a bacon cheeseburger & fries. The burger tasted weird and the fries greasy. I only ate about half and wished I had a salad.
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Old 06-29-2004, 05:19 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wife2abadge
I know what you mean. This past weekend we went out to eat to a dive that didn't have one single healthy thing on the menu. I decided I'd have a bacon cheeseburger & fries. The burger tasted weird and the fries greasy. I only ate about half and wished I had a salad.
I know the feeling...

I use to thrive on getting an In-N-Out burger & fries. That was my "treat". Well last time I did I felt so crappy afterwards...ugh. I had wished I ate chicken or something else. I guess my body isn't use to all of that greasy stuff anymore. This is not a bad thing though!!!
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Old 06-29-2004, 05:33 PM   #11
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Ugh! I know all about that! If I have refined sugar (like the time I was served a regular coke instead of diet), it feels like the worst hangover of my life. I've ended up throwing up for 12 hours before. I'm thinking my body doesn't like that stuff
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Old 06-29-2004, 08:46 PM   #12
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Okay, well I make ice cream the exception. That seems to be the one thing I absolutely cannot have in my house without eating too much of it.

Now extend that to ANY food, and you will live in my world. I can binge on the cardboard box. I do what Jiffy does, try to distract the cravings. Or think about the aftermath, or enter the food in fitday before I eat it. For me, the key is not to start.

BTW, I'm the barbell dropper, but it's usually a heavily loaded olympic bar
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Old 06-30-2004, 04:46 PM   #13
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Quote:
Now extend that to ANY food, and you will live in my world. I can binge on the cardboard box. Mel
I used to be like that. I couldn't have anything in my house at all before I was married. I'd make a batch of chocolate chip cookies and those I actually baked I would finish in two days. I'd get seemingly uncontrollable urges to drive to Dunkin' Donuts, buy a dozen donuts, and eat some of every single one until I was sick. Now cookies get stale at our house and when we have donuts at work I either don't have any or cut one into quarters and eat 1/4 of one.

I can't really tell you what changed things for me. I did get some counseling and dealt with some issues. I wasn't abused or anything, but I had some self esteem problems. I also read a book recommended by the nutritionist at my HMO called... Ugh, can't remember the name. It was all about giving yourself permission to eat whatever you wanted in small quantities and not making any food off limits. After I got married to a man who eats junk food all the time, I couldn't not have it in the house so I had to learn to live with it. After a while I was able to tell myself that if we ran out of Oreos, I could go to the store and buy more whenever I wanted. I could always have Oreos in the house if I wanted and I wasn't going to run out and never be able to have another one.

Don't get me wrong -- some days I still have problems with food and there are some days when I find myself bingeing and not being able to stop. Though now days a binge is more likely to consist of 6 cookies or a few handfuls of chips or a giant bowl of sugared cereal than a dozen donuts. Even those days have been few and far between lately, thank heavens.
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Old 07-01-2004, 01:24 PM   #14
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Wife2abadge: I know counselling helps a lot, I like you wasn't abused, have two parents who are still married etc, but have major body image issues... I am now learning to say what I need to say and not supress things (I am still working on it, but at least I am starting). It helps.... I am also learning to determine when I am not hungry and to think of something else or to have some water (okay, diet coke) at those points. I do have some things I do binge on in my house (cereal, and bread and pitas, luckily my BF isn't big into junk food, we have popcorn, but we share that), but I am starting to ask myself "am I hungry, do I physically need this now". I am becoming more aware of why I overeat and believe it or not that is helping me loads. I have been advised to read the book about binge eating by Fairburn and have been looking at it (it examines bingers/bulemics)... It too works on introducing certain foods which have caused binges... I am still not sure if I'll ever have chocolate in my house though, I eat choclate for any occasion... But it sounds like you're doing amazingly well. Congrats!

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Old 07-01-2004, 06:50 PM   #15
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One of my hardest things to deal with is wasting food. Especially when we go out to eat. I don't know why but I feel totally guilty if I waste anything food wise. Is this nuts or what?? Yesterday I paid 25 cents for a soda and I couldn't finish it all, it was too strong. So I threw part of it away and I felt guilty for 10 minutes or so..kept thinking WHY did I do that?? Anyone else have this problem?
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