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Demystify your cravings: How your brain, emotions, memories, and hunger intensify your carving and shape your relationship with food, by the best nutritionist in Hyderabad, India, Deepika Chalasani.

CASE STUDY & SUCCESS STORIES


Cravings often seem uncontrollable, leaving us reaching for that tempting snack without a second thought. But what if we could understand the reasons behind these cravings? By exploring the fascinating interplay of our brain, memories, and different types of hunger, we can better understand why we crave certain foods and, more importantly, how to manage those cravings.


The best dietitian in Hyderabad, Deepika Chalasani, talks about physiological, psychological, and neurological hunger and how these factors can impact our equation with food and weight.



Understanding Types of Hunger:


Physiological Hunger: Physiological Hunger is the most straightforward type, showing a growling stomach and a sense of emptiness, indicating your body's need for energy. Interestingly, our body can sometimes confuse hunger and thirst signals. So, when we're thirsty, it often shows up as a hunger signal, leading to potential misinterpretation. As a helpful practice, starting with a glass of water is recommended. Wait a few minutes and reassess your hunger levels. If the feeling persists, listen to the hunger cue and respond with a balanced meal. 


Consuming a meal high in refined carbohydrates leads to rapid spikes and subsequent crashes in blood sugar levels, typically occurring a couple of hours later. These fluctuations often trigger feelings of hunger and negative emotions such as anger, irritability, and anxiety. In response, individuals may turn to snacking, increased consumption of teas and coffees, or, in the case of smokers, smoking. This is clearly a dopamine 'fix', like any addiction.


If you find yourself nibbling on biscuits and nuts, indulging in small sips of Hyderabad chai shortly after a meal, or even reaching for snacks in the kitchen or fridge, it may be a sign to reconsider your breakfast choices. Opting for a breakfast rich in adequate protein and low-glycemic foods can help stabilise blood sugar levels and minimise cravings and snacking throughout the day.


Insulin spikes resulting from the food we take often intensify our cravings and, therefore, make us think of food more than required or make nibbling a way of life, adding to small and significant calories.


Food composition is also called the macros of carbohydrates: protein: fats we consume in every meal either nourish or starve our fat cells. When we nourish our bodies with wholesome meals, cravings tend to reduce. Conversely, cravings may intensify throughout the day if we deprive our fat cells despite our belief that we've consumed a wholesome meal.


Psychological Hunger: Food is more to us than just nutrients. Many of us look to food as a comfort or stress buster. Picture feeling hungry when your body doesn't need food. Stress, boredom, or the mere sight of a tempting treat can trick your brain into thinking you're hungry. It's like emotional eating – your brain seeks comfort in food. Recognizing this type of hunger is vital to finding alternative ways to cope with emotions.


In case of cravings, the least damaging time to indulge is 3 to 4 hours after a nutritious lunch, when hunger levels are moderate. Evening is an excellent time to consume as nutritious dinners can help balance sugar spikes. Consuming them in breakfast can lead to increased cravings throughout the day.


Often, we think a lot about our favourite foods before eating, but we need to be more mindful while eating. We might chat or watch TV, and the brain doesn't register the experience. This leads to repeated cravings. For example, we might finish a large tub of popcorn at the movies despite not being hungry. However, if we eat slowly and savour each bite, we'll likely eat much less.


Neurological Hunger: Think of this as your brain playing tricks on you. Even when your stomach is full, your brain may still crave the pleasure of tasty treats. Taming this type of hunger involves outsmarting your brain's reward system.


The brain acts like an autoresponder, storing associations. For example, whenever you come across your favourite food, the brain will throw up images, reminding you of all the pleasurable experiences of the last several occasions. You may not be hungry or craving it, but the memories make you want it. With each new experience, the association grows stronger. Places like the chai stall, grocery store, fridge, or snack pantry trigger these associations. It's not just hunger or cravings; it's a repetitive pattern we must break.


One of the best health coaches, Deepika Chalasani, also discusses strategies to crack the cravings code and regain control over your food choices.


Mindful Eating: Slow down and savour each bite without distractions like using your cell phone, watching something on TV, etc. Pay attention to when you start feeling full. This practice helps break the automatic response to cravings, putting your brain on pause and allowing your body to catch up.


Balanced Nutrition: Consider your body a well-oiled machine that needs a mix of proteins, carbs, and fats to function smoothly. Providing this balance keeps hormones in check, reducing the intensity of cravings.


The typical Indian diet mainly consists of carbs, less protein, and healthy fats, which, in many cases, is the reason for binge eating or cravings after a meal. Many people crave sugar right after the meal, indicating deficiencies in magnesium, vitamin B, and a low-protein diet. 

Stress-Busting Moves: Stress can trigger cravings, especially the psychological kind. Combat stress with short breathing techniques, smile meditation, a refreshing walk, and a quick workout that improves the endorphins or happy hormones. These acts not only manage stress but also give benefits for an extended period and break the cycle of reaching for food as a coping mechanism.


Change Your Brain's Story: Consider Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as a tool to shift negative thoughts about food. It's like rewriting the script your brain follows when it comes to cravings.


Conclusion:


Cravings may seem difficult to manage, but demystifying them will help you understand the root cause of your cravings and, therefore, be in charge of them. You can take charge of your food choices by understanding how your brain functions and the different types of hunger.


Remember, understanding your cravings is the first step to conquering them and achieving a healthier, more satisfying relationship with the food you love.

 


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