Cravings originate in the unconscious mind but that doesn't mean they can't be curbed. Coming from the primitive reward centers in our brains, cravings are driven by habit and routine. A habit is defined by the 'habit loop' which consists of reminder, routine and reward. Meaning, there is a reminder event followed by a repeated routine, which ends with a particular reward. When this loop is repeated, cravings develop. The craving ensures the routine will be repeated. Nasty little cycle! But don't fret, if you have a junk food habit that is derailing all your other best efforts, we've got 4 steps that can help you beat it once and for all.
1. Pay AttentionNotice your cravings and pay attention to the environmental factors that have triggered them. It could be anything from turning on the TV, a Saturday night out with your friends, or bad day a work.
2. Hack the HabitOnce you identify the habit and the craving it creates, try to determine the reward you are actually seeking. Once you do, change the routine so that you can obtain the reward but get to it without going through the junk craving. For example, you get home from work and you feel that familiar feeling, the desire, that craving. Identify the reward you are seeking. If it is relaxation, skip the glass of wine and wheel of cheese and draw yourself a bath. Take time away from life and the outside world. Repeat this routine over and over (and over) until you create a new craving.
3. Balance the BrainThe brain is loaded with metabolic function and is the source of most of our cravings. In the case of biochemical cravings, the goal is to achieve a balanced hormonal state in the brain. That means a balance between the brain's stimulating hormone, glutamate, and its relaxing hormone GABA. That's not all. It also means you need to achieve a balance between dopamine (the hormone that helps us stay motivated and focused) and serotonin (the hormone that makes us feel content, satisfied and relaxed). There are natural components you can take before cravings or when they hit that will go a long way to stopping them dead.
- cocoa powder (1 tablespoon in water)
- Branched-chain amino acids (5 to 10 grams)
- Tyrosine and 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) in a 10-to-1 ratio (1,000 milligrams of tyrosine and 100 milligrams of 5-HTP)