Baby Hercules wrote:
There are two kinds of food cravings, physical and mental/emotional. The physical one is fairly straightforward: you are dehydrated, so you want beverages; your body lacks Vitamin C, so you suddenly crave oranges. These cravings are usually easily satisfied by simply supplying whatever element the body wants, then the cravings end, never to return unless the deficiency returns. If you have favorite vegetables that you cannot seem to get enough of, research what those veggies are high in, nutrient-wise. Chances are, your regular diet is low in something they provide. We don't crave things for no reason.
Sometimes the reason is all in your head, pun intended. Such mental cravings are a little more complex. When you "want" food that you have mentally decided is not good for you, then by definition you are acting against your best interests. You are making a choice that you believe will hurt you. Why would anybody do this? Easy: the food behavior is triggering a chemical rush in the brain...and you taught your own brain to do it.
Mental/emotional connections to food rapidly form when you constantly associate a feeling with a food, they can even happen overnight during an event of high stress. When I was eleven, I had major surgery, the first time I was ever in a hospital, and needless to say, I was anxious. The nurses brought me buttered toast, one of the few foods I was allowed, and I associated the care giving with the taste of hot buttered bread. There are now certain days I could go through an entire loaf of six grain bread and a tub of Earth Balance spread, easy. The weird bond between certain foods and certain emotions isn't your imagination, it's a hard-core chemical connection in your brain. You really feel like you need that food. It feels almost addictive but the emotion is the trigger, not the food. Studies have revealed that the same dopamine rush that controlled substance addicts experience is evident in binge eaters during a junk food free-for-all. The brain has learned that there's something out there it can use to get "high," thus alleviating whatever negative emotion has it by the tail. Trick is, no amount of that food will end the need because the emotion can be sustained by the brain indefinitely simply by ruminating over it. The physical body, by comparison, must throw in the towel after a certain point. You can only eat so much buttered bread before you want to puke.
Will power is not going to do it, in fact applying force to the situation actually just reinforces the brain connection. Drug therapy, a form of force, is another dead end, often literally. Throwing a lot of money and unnatural chemicals at a perfectly natural process is ludicrous. You have far more control over the trigger--the emotions--anyway, and that's free. You've got to identify the situations that lead to the emotions and then substitute an alternative behavior that will trigger the same chemical cascade in your brain. If you already feel good, you don't want the "bad food," you literally, chemically, do not need it. Ever notice how you only crave crap when you FEEL like crap? There you go.
Here's an example: Let's say you typically come home at the end of the day tired, a little frustrated, and with low blood sugar. Your body's first priority is survival, so it signals hunger to take care of the blood sugar situation. But you're tired, you don't want to waste any more energy, so you start thinking about what you can get right now. The frustration factor is why you reach for junk food: it's a treat, it's something you don't allow yourself except on special occasions, and it's insanely delicious. I won't go into how certain combinations of sugar, salt, and fat have been researched and manipulated by companies to help your brain want them even more. In a nutshell, you're reaching for the frozen vegan pizza rolls because it feels good to be satisfied on so many levels so quickly. Do that enough times and your body and brain will associate every crappy day of work with gooey vegan pizza rolls. Try making it through the supermarket at 7 PM, tired and hungry. Go ahead, try it.
But you wouldn't have needed the pizza roll medication if you hadn't already been on the ropes. The trick is not to get into that situation in the first place. You'll be surprised how much fewer your cravings become when you tend to your own brain chemicals first. If you are tired at the end of the day, instead of going directly home, take a few minutes to sit in your car or outside and do deep breathing. Stretch a little, especially your neck, back, and legs. Walking is good, it does all of that. Do a little self-massage on those areas, especially the hands, neck, and shoulders. Close your eyes and visualize something that gives you relief. Relief doesn't mean nirvana, it just means "better than before." So, if you're angry, plot revenge in your head (don't actually act on it, just enjoy the possibility). If you're frustrated, remember a great vacation, workout, or party you experienced lately. Think about your furry pet waiting for you at home. If you are lonely or anxious, go for the mental porn. Sexual fantasies do amazing balancing acts with your brain chemicals, especially in rush hour. People will look over and wonder why you're grinning in the next lane. All of this releases the chemicals your brain was looking forward to with the pizza rolls.
When you get home, immediately drink a glass of water. This will give your stomach something to do for a minute or so while you direct your thoughts towards dinner. If you need more than that, a piece of fruit will prevent hypoglycemic meltdown. You've just bought yourself 10-20 minutes to prepare the dinner you will feel proud of. If you're really smart, you'll get it ready in the morning or prep a whole week's worth in advance. After the meal, relax on the floor with light stretching and/or yoga. Self massage your feet now, and your back by rolling over tennis balls on the floor or a balance ball. The point is, you're teaching your brain to anticipate all this good feeling stuff in the evenings, and more importantly, to associate the soothing actions with the aftermath of a good meal instead of junk food. Keep the TV off during this time, it will hijack your neocortex and screw up your efforts. Music is okay.
It will take time, but it will work. Don't worry about setbacks, just keep at it. It takes about 30 days for the brain to literally rewire itself with neurons along a new path of behavior. Once it's wired, it's in there good. That's why switching from the old behavior takes so long and why willpower is just stupid. Willpower doesn't rewire anything, it doesn't teach you anything but suffering and sacrifice, it just accustoms you to beating your head against a wall and then giving yourself credit for how much pain you can withstand. Stupid. Consider this new phase of self-teaching, of positive brainwashing, as just another exercise routine in your bodybuilding repertoire. You can apply the same concepts to any behavior you want to change. There are dozens more tricks than the ones I mentioned here.
Now, what are you going to have for dinner tomorrow?
Woah, thanks for all that information. There is definitely some good stuff in there i will surely try. Your method makes sense. I'm going to give the massaging / relaxing / walking a go when i notice bad food trying to seduce me haha. Also replacing the bad food with a healthy food that i like makes a lot of sense also...
Thanks for taking the time to reply
As for dinner, i boiled some potato's, mashed um, and poured some gravy on. So i did good.. haha. One of my biggest problems is ketchup.... I use it on almost everything. I know a little ketchup is not to to bad, but I use a inhumane amount. Also, because i love ketchup, i tend to make things that go well with ketchup, which usually is fried junk... darn ketchup.