I confess: I stole this topic from the SCDLifestyle guys on Facebook. I was going to write about spices but this really got me thinking.
One’s immediate, knee-jerk response to the question, “What is your body asking for?” is to blurt out something you’re craving. Chocolate. Carbs. Pizza. McDonalds. Fiiiiiizzzzzzy cooldrinks (yes please!).
But wait. That’s not what your body wants. That’s what your brain is telling you that you want. Delicious, high-calorie foods that trigger pleasure centres in your brain. Just thinking about your favourite foods can make you salivate.
In this way, we are all food addicts: Our brains are hardwired to fuel our search for kilojoule-rich food to provide maximum energy, just as it did during our hunter-gatherer days. Seems evolution just hasn’t caught up yet!
Of course, food manufacturers realised this aeons ago, and have for years been modifying the very makeup of food particles: Sugar is sweeter, fat is smoother. These aren’t modifications that we’re consciously aware of when we’re chomping our way through our third straight bar of chocolate, but you can be sure that your brain is aware of them – creating a vicious cycle. Why else would the junk food industry be one of the largest and most lucrative in the world? We all know what’s good for us, but the truth is that boiled carrots just aren’t as appealing as carrot cake – and the food scientists know it too!
You have to know your enemy if you want to beat it
So why do we having cravings? Scientists believe that they’re caused by a number of factors ranging from evolution to stress, unhappiness and a plain ‘ol need for certain foods. But what they know – and even us laypeople know too – is that eating bad food just feels oh so good.
Quoted in an interesting article on Lifehacker, food scientist Steven Witherly explains exactly why this is:
First, there is the sensation of eating the food. This includes what it tastes like (salty, sweet, umami, etc.), what it smells like, and how it feels in your mouth. This last quality— known as “orosensation”—can be particularly important. Food companies will spend millions of dollars to discover the most satisfying level of crunch in a potato chip. Their scientists will test for the perfect amount of fizzle in a soda. These factors all combine to create the sensation that your brain associates with a particular food or drink.
The second factor is the actual macronutrient makeup of the food—the blend of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that it contains. In the case of junk food, food manufacturers are looking for a perfect combination of salt, sugar, and fat that excites your brain and gets you coming back for more.
Check out the whole article here.
Scary, isn’t it? How the food industry is actually perpetuating our cravings? I mean, think of your favourite food – the food you’d choose as your last meal. What makes it so desirable? The sugar? The fat? The oozing, dripping cheese? Or maybe it’s the satisfying crunch of a hard chocolate shell.
Less appealing when it comes out of a test tube, isn’t it?
Today, many hold the food industry responsible for their part in exacerbating food cravings by modifying our foods to trigger maximum pleasure in our brains. Basically, food scientists are spending their 9-5 making food more addictive and making us slaves to our addictions.
Who’re you calling a slave?
Many years ago, the pay-off line for a certain chocolate bar was ‘Resistance is futile’. Ha, ha, ha. That’s what got us into this mess in the first place, isn’t it?
The fact is, if you want to get well, resistance should be the sharpest tool in your armoury.
But here’s the good news…
The less junk food you eat, the less you crave it. Which means that the first few days of cutting out sugar and unhealthy fat are hell. You’ve been main-lining the sweet stuff for years, and now you’re suddenly ripping out the needle. You’re an addict, so don’t expect withdrawal to be easy.
…and the even better news
Withdrawals don’t last that long. It’s not heroin after all – you’re not going to die. You’re going to be cranky for a few days and a real pain in the backside, so perhaps remove yourself from society and sweat it out in private if you feel you’re going to be an insufferable ass.
But after a few days, it’s going to get easier… and easier, and easier. Isn’t the feeling of not craving something something to really crave?
So back to my original question
What is your body craving? Now we know that our brains are craving all that junk that destroyed our bodies in the first place.
But what do our bodies want? Your BMs, your cramps, your bloating, your joint pains are all a great indication of what your body is craving: More water, less sugar. More organic food, less processed crap. Lots of fresh veggies, no more fast food.
I don’t think this is what they meant when they said ‘choose organic’…
Starting to understand how food can help you to address each of these issues is the way to start remedying them. Remember, your brain tricked you into eating all that rubbish that caused this pain and suffering in the first place. Now it’s time to block out your nagging subconscious and really focus on what your gut needs.
Our brains really screwed us, didn’t they? Or maybe we screwed ourselves by being slaves to them. They conned us into eating all this crap, but they didn’t end up with ulcers all over them – our colons did! And now it’s time to give our colons some respect.
Diets like SCD, Paleo, GAPS and FODMAP are key to restoring your gut to health after a prolonged junk food onslaught. You MUST find the willpower to overcome your brain’s cravings and food science’s clever tricks to help your body to heal.
So what is your body craving? Mine’s craving pure, healthy foods, free of additives and preservatives, cooked with care and prepared in a way that is as easy as possible to digest.
Is it as fun as chocolate cake? No. We all prefer pumpkin pie to pumpkin puree, but we have a responsibility to ourselves to heal. Junk food is poison hidden in a pretty wrapper. And while organic veggies may not look as appealing as as Burger King, it’s what’s on the inside that counts – as we all know so well.
So, stop, listen and feel. What’s your body craving?