Food Cravings – Why is my brain doing this?

Why is it that you get into the first few weeks of a lifestyle that involves making changes to your diet, and everything is going fine, until – bam, it hits you, and your brain screams out “I want chocolate!” or “I need a packet of crisps!” This is so common. Why is your brain trying to sabotage your good intentions? What’s happening? Help!!!

There are many aspects to food cravings, and it is common to find them affecting people who eat quite conventionally when they go on a “diet”. In fact, this question came from someone who is not a raw food eater. As you will probably be aware, I totally disagree with going on a diet. Diets do not work. You lose a bit of weight, come off the diet, then gain it back and some. Whilst many people’s scales tell them they have initially lost weight, a lot of this weight is not the desired fat loss, but water loss. You might lose up to 10lbs of water to start with, and love what the scales say, and then it happens, doesn’t it? You can hear that Mars bar calling to you from the fridge. That’s a craving if ever there was one. So how can we stop it?

Let us consider what cravings actually are. What the body is really telling us is “I need nutrition!” More specifically, the body needs minerals. Many people are in a state of chronic mineral deficiency, and this can lead to the most outrageous food cravings. We need 60 minerals for good health, and 92 minerals for optimal health. However, how are we EVER going to achieve this if we eat conventionally grown food, grown in depleted soil, whose only fertiliser has been standard NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium)? We know for a fact that anything grown conventionally in UK soil will not contain any selenium because it has been eroded away, and selenium, important as it is in our antioxidant pathways, is only one mineral out of those 60 essential ones. “Formula” baby milk only contains 11 minerals. Where are the unfortunate infants who are fed this nonsense going to get the other 49 essential minerals from I wonder?

I digress. Many dieters are so obsessed with caloric restriction that they eat mineral depleted “food” that contains no beneficial nutrients. No wonder their bodies are shouting at them!

I have a whole lecture devoted to the importance of minerals, where we can get our most vital minerals from and what we should be focusing our attention on when choosing what to eat, so I am not going to repeat it here. Suffice it to say that if you want the full lowdown on minerals, it’s all in the lecture “The Importance of Minerals” which you can get here.

So, is the answer to food cravings as simple as just getting more minerals into the body? Not exactly. It plays an important part, but we also need essential fats. Most people have a skewed ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 – too much omega 6, insufficient omega 3. This occurs as a result of eating processed junk that is laden with partially or fully hydrogenated vegetable oils. This leads to further cravings for fat, but the body wants the good fats, not the junk fats. Likewise, the body’s messages have often got mixed up along the way. “I’m hungry” usually actually means “I’m thirsty”. I wonder how many dieters have ever been told exactly how much water they should be drinking per day for their current bodyweight, and what percentage more they need to have for every pound of body fat that they need to lose? Hmm, I thought not.

No article on cravings would be complete without considering the importance of balancing blood sugar, or the psychological effects of dieting themselves. It has been estimated that approximately 60% of the population of the Western world have blood sugar imbalances. What happens if your blood sugar drops too low? Sugar cravings! The brain can’t function without glucose, so if the blood glucose level falls, what is the brain going to do? That’s right, it’s going to yell at you – “feed me!”. What does it want? Sugar! But it doesn’t actually want pure white refined deadly sugar, does it? It wants real food. Real food that contains not only glucose, but the whole host of minerals and nutrients that are responsible for allowing the Krebs Cycle to run efficiently and create energy. And going back to minerals, which two minerals are essential for blood sugar regulation, so often at low levels in those dieters? Chromium and vanadium. I’ll bet very few people at Diet Club will be told that though, or the vital fact that good quality plant protein is essential for regulation of blood sugar, or even that exercise is also essential for keeping cravings at bay.

The psychological aspects of dieting are probably the worst of all, and often the greatest barrier to success. What’s a diet? Fundamentally, one word stands out above all others – DEPRIVATION. “I’m not allowed to eat that”, or, “I can’t have that, I’m on a diet”. How often do I hear those words? Far too often. And every time I do, I feel sad for the person who has been sucked into the negative spiral of dieting that is likely to end in failure and frustration. What they are doing is unsustainable both nutritionally and psychologically. How many times are they “good all week”, only to blow it on weekends? How many times do we have to congratulate them for losing another 5 pounds, only to hear of their frustrations a few weeks (or even days) later?

Before I totally leave the subject of minerals and cravings, I must stress – please do not go out and buy a mineral supplement. It will NOT have 60-92 minerals in it. It will most likely be chemically manufactured so the body does not recognise it as food. It will probably not be bioavailable. What do we need? Real food that contains minerals! Green juices. Blended green soups. Wheatgrass juice. Seaweed. Sprouted foods. Supplements made from whole plants. All the things that those on a raw food “diet” eat in abundance. But eating raw food is not a diet. It is a lifestyle. It combines optimal nutrition, exercise, hydration and many other factors. It allows you to reach your ideal weight and stay there. Is it extreme? Some people might say so. It is certainly different from the “conventional” way of eating. I, personally, think that “going on a diet” is extreme. Why would you start something that deep down you know is most likely going to leave you unhappy, craving junk and ending up fatter than before (we all know that 98% of diets fail)?

Why not consider abundance instead? Abundance is a much nicer word than deprivation. It is a warm, fuzzy sort of word that makes us feel good on a cold, dark November day. Think of the massive abundance of nutrients that the plant kingdom gives us. Think of the abundance of colours that we find in plants. Think of all the foods in the plant kingdom that we can eat freely, that give us minerals, healthy fats, protein, essential sugars and everything we need to truly nourish our cells. That is the path to the beginning of the end for cravings. Focus on abundance. Love your body enough to want to feed it only the best. Real food is not brown or grey, it is rainbow coloured. Eat the rainbow, and your cravings will start to fade even as your mood elevates, despite the darker days.

Note:

Everyone is different. For specific advice regarding your own personal circumstances, why not consider a consultation?   

About Max Tuck

Hippocrates Health Educator. Long term living foods vegan. Athlete, lecturer, author of four books (with the 5th coming soon) and firm advocate of healthy living.
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2 Responses to Food Cravings – Why is my brain doing this?

  1. ann says:

    Nicely put, Max. Since going 80% raw, I have never, ever felt deprived. I feel great, have lost about 40 pounds, and have TONS of energy. All my cravings disappeared long ago!

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