Do you ever just randomly sit at a place when you have nothing to do, so you start scrolling through your Facebook feed, and you find videos of delicious and sinful food. You are now watching it being made, trying to remember every ingredient put in it, but you know deep down there is no point because you just want to devour that end product. You now realize that there is no way you are going to get that because: a) it is too much work, and b) you probably don’t have the money or time to go looking for something that good.
But the story does not end there. After watching about 5-7 tempting Buzzfeed food videos, you think, 'I am hungry'. Now mind you, you might not even be hungry, but you want to pretend like you are because your mind wants that high calorie, sweet, yummy or cheesy goodness. It’s not you, it's your mind.
Have you ever wondered why this happens and how can we remedy this? Research suggests that 'while experiencing negative or positive emotions typically leads to increased food intake, stress may result in either over or undereating. Several participant characteristics, like gender, BMI (Body Mass Index) and restrained, emotional, or external eating styles seem to influence these relationships' (Reichenberg et al, 2016).
Therefore, here are some reasons why your body is craving that junk and how you could help control them.
Reason 1: Your body is producing too much Leptin
Leptin is a hormone that produces body fat cells. It basically tells our brain how many calories have been taken in, and how much more or less we should be having. However, with the increase in body fat, we have an increase in Leptin, which means the need for more calories, implying more intake of fatty foods which are high in calories.
Reason 2: Your body is secreting too little Serotonin
Serotonin is our pleasure enhancing neurotransmitter, which is responsible for us having enjoyable moments. They are produced in the gastrointestinal tract and are unswervingly related to our mood, hunger, and feelings. When you have low levels of serotonin, you end up craving for things. Low levels of serotonin are linked to mental health issues such as, depression (hence we have depressed eaters), anxiety (people who eat when they are nervous), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
When we get sad or depressed about something, a lot of us tend to find a certain pleasure in eating high-calorie food. So, if you ever wonder why you gobble up an entire tub of ice cream after a heart break, well, then, here you go.
Reason 3: Food addiction
Yes, there is such a thing. Food addiction is real, and we need to stop acting like it is not a big deal!
Okay, I am done being theatrical, but you get the gist. What happens is, we all have neurotransmitters called endorphins, which are released to diminish pain, also known as analgesics. These are the same things that drugs like Heroin is known to have. So how exactly is this related to food addictions?
The answer to this is, that when we take in food high in salts, sugars and carbs (hello Lays), we tend to feel good and fulfilled after indulging in these “comfort foods”. But what is the point if it only lasts for a few seconds, right? We just end up eating more and more, and eventually, it becomes an addiction hence constantly releasing all of those endorphins. Once again, this is related to having poor mental health. Depression, anxiety, body image issues, and stress are all famous associates to food addiction.
Reason 4: Unhealthy tummy
Well, no guesses for this one. A healthy tummy means the bacteria and the internal space of your gut need to be balanced out with healthy bacteria. When you take in unhealthy foods, you create a space for bad bacteria to overpower you hence putting an effect on your Serotonin levels and Leptin, hence increasing your junk cravings.
Reason 5: Stress, stress, stress and some more stress
Stress is literally the one true love of every problem or bad habit that we have.
Is there really a way to push out all the stress in our lives? Not really, but the least that can be done is to tone it down and bring the stress to a minimal level. When we are stress we tend to reduce our serotonin levels, which the brain thinks it is the right time to indulge in sinful desserts to get your moods to lighten. But what our poor brain doesn’t know, is that it satisfies you for only a while, and goes back to the same mood. It then becomes a vicious cycle that becomes hard to get out of.
Therefore, how can we come up with ways to reduce this pesky little phenomenon of binge eating and food cravings?
- Firstly, exercise. Working out has so many benefits, including the most common one, reducing fat. When we work out we start toning our body. This also means a restoring a healthy level of Leptin. It also increases endorphins, so this way we don’t need to satisfy our brain with the fries and nuggets because exercise is making it feel better.
- Secondly, practicing meditation every morning. This is mainly to calm your nerves and helps you get less frustrated and stressed.
- Thirdly, eating clean. This is directly linked to reason 4, which is having an unhealthy tummy. When you eat clean, you are making space for more healthy bacteria to occupy your gut than bad bacteria. Eat more fibrous food and more of vegetables. Additionally, don’t forget to stay hydrated. Water is your best friend guys, always and forever. It cleans up your system and eases your headaches. So eat clean and stay hydrated!
- Make a diet plan, by balancing out your cheat day. Obviously, nobody is expecting you to stop all the junk in a day, but, try to balance everything out and try to keep at least once or twice a week for food you love. Remember to gradually bring it down, to maybe once a week, then to once a month.
- Always have healthier alternatives for snacks. If you are a snacky person like I am, then don't forget to stock up the nuts and fruits as your alternatives to all your junky snacks.
There you have it, your biggest question answered. Now you know how to say no to that cupcake and eat an apple instead!