I. HAVE. NO. CRAVINGS.
I'll say it again, I have no cravings. It's a simple statement but for me it is more intensely charged emotionally that anything else I can think of right now.
If you've had years of really overwhelming food cravings you know what I'm feeling. I am literally crying for relief and for joy these days. I'm writing this blog for myself to have a touchstone to come back to if ever I want to eat the foods that I was or rather am addicted to.
No bite of food can replace this freedom and this sense of control that I have with food. It's just been three week so I know that the slope can be slippery in the beginning of any major life changes so I tread gently and with great amounts of gratitude and am leaving this for my future self just in case. These dietary restrictions have already manifested so many good things in my life, things that I have longed for and sought after for so long that I want to make these restrictions my permanent life choices.
It's ironic but restrictions have created freedom. The primary freedom is that I don't have food cravings. Other freedoms are that I feel satisfied after eating my meals and I have more energy and my chronic pain is all but gone.
I have had intense food cravings every day (and night) of my life since the 1980's. For the first few days without the cravings I didn't know how to eat. I had to make myself eat at regular intervals while learning what hunger feels like. For decades I responded to cravings thinking that they were my body's signal that I was hungry. Nope, not the same it turns out.
Scientifically speaking, a food craving is simply a strong drive to eat specific foods. If you have a food addiction, your brain responds to that specific food by releasing chemicals in the part of the brain responsible for addiction called the reward center. Substances, included but not limited to, like pain killers and tobacco and behaviors like gambling and video gaming are processed here as well. We become addicted because those chemicals released in the reward center makes us feel so good. We want more of that good feeling and a habit is born (an over simplified but honest summation).
'Feeling good' is a subjective and variable scale. Genetic variances, deeply held belief systems, our perceptions and currently other unknown variables come into play. So that a person can become addicted to gambling but not opiates, food but not gambling, etc. Scientists are studying this now and what the data show is that you are more susceptible to becoming addicted to another substance/behavior if we have an addiction but it is not predictable that you will become addicted to anything else.
So food addiction, what is it? Certain foods have the ability to light up that area of the brain (the reward center) while most foods do not have this ability. For example, there have not been any studies on broccoli addiction because broccoli does not cause the reward center to light up/be triggered, therefore broccoli is not addictive to your brain. Whereas there are numerous studies showing that sugar does light up the reward center and therefore sugar is addictive to the brain.
The reason that I say 'in or to the brain' is that I want to tease out and eliminate the affects of blood sugar. Low blood sugar levels can and does drive food cravings. But I want to only address food cravings caused by an actual addiction, an addiction that is verifiable, quantifiable and studied with consistent results as shown by fMRIs and brain SPECTs.
The reason why is this...and it's huge. All sweeteners, even those that do not spike blood sugar levels, all act on the brain just like white sugar and are every bit as addictive. This includes stevia, monk fruit and artificial sweeteners. Flours, even the whole grain flours, are also addictive. Foods containing the combination of fat, salt, and sugar are highly addictive. For many, like myself, the casomorphins found in dairy is also addictive.
Does this mean that everyone who eats them will become addicted and suffer cravings when the brain needs another fix? Absolutely not. Just like most people who play a slot machine in Las Vegas are not going to become a gambling addict. But, over time a few will become gambling addicts. Exactly as some of us will suffer intense food cravings and will most likely become overweight or obese as a result of having a food addiction from eating those foods.
I haven't been able to find, and I have access to a lot of places to find medical research, any epidemiological studies on how prevalent food addiction is in the US or in other countries. But if obesity is an indicator then we do have that data. Okay, I can't seem to add a workable link to the animated map on the Metrocosm website (Metrocosm makes visual presentations for fast comprehension of often complex data). The name of the map is, 'Watch how fast the world became obese' and can also be found on YouTube. Just search on that title.
My game plan was that after thorough research, I stopped eating the foods that contained addictive substances. Basically, I no longer eat sugar, four or dairy. Day one began with intense cravings but by 3 the cravings were easily manageable, most of them were easy. A few cravings were intense and I used deep breathing, meditations, visualizations and self-talk statements also known as positive affirmations. Reliable tools that have worked in the past for me plus I reached out to friends for support and engaged in self-care and pampering. Even bought some new body care products and loved my body as I applied them. All of these techniques work for me. So the me here now to the future me reading this, I remind myself to keep using them and to keep finding new affirmations that feel like they fit me as I change.
I will not think about what I gave up or what I will miss. For me that's romancing or fantasizing. I know that it will lead me to eventually trade my hard won freedom for being a slave to food addictions again. The most powerful positive affirmations for me are those steeped in logic (oh geeky girl that I am) and of those, the most wonderful one for me is, "All cravings will last a few minutes at most. They get weaker and shorter and will disappear altogether unless I give into it, and then cravings will be more intense and last longer as I have to start all over again."
No flour, no sugar, no dairy, no cravings. I am so relieved and grateful to every food scientist who has ever done research on food addition. Thank you. I am so grateful to everyone of you here on Sparkpeople who are so courageously sharing your journey. Thank you. I am especially grateful to the SparkPeople who have successfully lost and kept off weight and are still here to encourage and help those of us finding our way. Thank you.