Do you continually find yourself craving sweets or high fat foods, despite the fact that you are absolutely certain you need neither one of those things in your diet and that you’d be far healthier without them? You’re far from alone. There has been a mountain of research conducted on the subject.
According to a recent study from Singapore General Hospital’s Department of Dietetics, a person’s emotional state and environment can play a sizeable role in triggering these types of food cravings. The researchers explained that there are both physiological factors at play when it comes to creating that sensation of craving a high fat or high sugar food.
For example, your cravings for sweets after having eaten your dinner might go right back to your childhood. Your body and mind have come to expect that sweet treat at the end of the meal. If your parents used dessert as a reward for eating your dinner, the sensation may be even stronger, as your are psychologically programmed to feel rewarded by the taste of something sweet after your meal.
Similarly if you used to come home from school and have a salty snack such as potato chips, those foods can easily become a comfort food for you because you associate them with that feeling of having completed the toughest part of your day and the beginning of your chance to relax.
You may also have enjoyed these calorie dense sweet and fatty snacks or deserts at special and social times such as when you were taking part in a group activity, watching a movie, going to a ballgame or celebrating a birthday. Through these rituals, your foods gain unique significance you may not even be aware is there.
That said, when you’re feeling stressed and anxious, your body will naturally crave the foods you’ve associated with sensations of fun, reward and happiness. When you’ve lived your whole life building the connection between those feelings and sweet or fatty foods, you’ll be more likely to crave them when you want to feel those emotions.
This experience is only underscored by the brain’s reaction to high sugar and high fat foods. After all, they taste great, which is instantly pleasant, but they may also have a link to the production of certain brain chemicals – such as serotonin – that help to ease anxiety and give us a heightened sense of pleasure.
As a result, there is both a physical and mental reason for our cravings. By becoming aware of this, it makes it easier to come up with a strategy to overcome those cravings, particularly in terms of better coping with stress and anxiety.