The dynamics that make us unable to manage impulsive food cravings are the same ones that take over in many situations related not only to food but also to addictions such as smoking, alcohol and from emotional states such as anger, aggression and fear.
The cause is not so much in the lack of willpower , as we often hear, but in the mechanisms of functioning of the oldest and most instinctive part of you, the first of the 3 I mentioned to you , the reptilian brain .
The emotional and the rational side, the other two, if not trained, fail to take control when the reptilian brain activates.
Managing these 3 parts of you in an orderly and natural way is the way to regain full control of your thoughts and actions.
You will discover :
– why sometimes you can’t limit the actions that you deem harmful
– the scientific reason why it is natural for humans to give in to these instant desires
– 4 practical and immediately applicable solutions to recover control of your nutrition, and more.
I think one of the most common and heartfelt wishes is to always express, under all circumstances, a better version of yourself.
The only way to do this is knowing how to govern the 3 parts that distinguish us and not being crushed by the most impulsive and irrational part of us.
Of course, it is not easy, especially considering the society full of distractions in which we find ourselves, but it is certainly the only way to determine our health and our life in general.
I think it’s worth a try! What do you say? How to learn how to manage impulsive food cravings?
Now I want to tell you something, don’t worry, but there are actually three versions of you, three versions of each of us .
Three versions that represent the three brains we have enclosed in our skull: one brain is the reptilian one, the oldest one, the other is the emotional one and the third is the rational one (keep reading).
They essentially represent the stages of our evolution.
– That basic reptile , rudimentary, responsible for all survival mechanisms regulates body temperature, heartbeat, the basic mechanisms of bowel function, reproductive mechanisms and the search for food.
– The emotional brain, which we share with mammals, which is a bit the bridge between the two realities, depending on the interpretations we give of the situation we can enrich them with a positive or negative connotation, distressing or relaxing, loving or instead linked for example to combat, escape, and danger.
– And finally the rational part , which is obviously the part that characterizes our species in a particular way. The cerebral cortex thus developed has given life to a very strong rational part.
However, there are operational distinctions between these three parts that are very important and I want to mention one in particular: the speed of action .
If speed becomes a comparison between the three areas, you can be sure that the reptilian brain will win. The reptilian brain has an enormous speed, it is the one that manages all the components on which our survival depends.
The emotional part has an intermediate average speed , while the rational part is certainly slower, it takes longer to intervene.
The rational part is the part that logically tells us what is right to do, it is the part that is enriched by all our culture, by knowledge and it is also the part, speaking of nutrition, which is able to say “No look at that stuff you don’t have to eat it because it hurts you or it makes you fat “, while the reptilian part of the brain is the one that tells you” Take what there is, you have to survive. So if there’s that stuff there, eat that stuff there. ”
The emotional part is the one that mainly regulates the consequences and memories ; that food there maybe I know it hurts me but I liked it so much, it represents pampering, it represents love, so I find it hard to give up.
Well a really fundamental key to managing these processes is to slow them down, because if you can slow them down you have a better chance for awareness to emerge and take control of the situation. Awareness that is allowed precisely by the rational part of our brain.
Fighting nervous hunger and night hunger
Nervous hunger manifests itself as a kind of food response to emotions. Basically, you respond to a particular mood by eating.
Surely you have also been feeling particularly nervous and agitated and try to calm down by drinking or eating something. It’s normal? No, in the sense that hunger should be and is above all a physiological stimulus.
It comes at fairly regular intervals because our bodies need energy to function and food is the means that nature has chosen to synthesize and assimilate energy from the sun.
Nervous hunger therefore has this illusory “power” to respond to a particular mood, but it is clear that this is not a real response, nor a real relief.
According to field research, this sort of “emotional craving” manifests itself with the following characteristics.
Nervous hunger attacks:
They come suddenly, meaning it’s not a planned meal – albeit a temporary one. On the contrary, it arrives unannounced. You suddenly feel hungry, even if you didn’t have the sensation until a few minutes before.
Often this craving for sudden hunger is linked to a particular food: choices generally focus on flavors that stimulate the brain, such as sweet or salty. But not even the first or second meals are excluded, especially if energetic. The idea that it is a phenomenon related only to snacks to munch in bed, at night, is quite misleading.
Nervous hunger ties into current need. It is not related to the timing of meals. You may have had dinner at 9pm and still feel nervous hunger two hours later, with a completely unrelated episode.
The sudden craving for food is related to feelings of pleasure from the taste buds, so it has very little to do with the hole in the stomach.
Being emotional in nature, it can be linked to a stressful episode, a situation, a succession of events, a period. The idea is that food has a comfort function.
It is a totally emotional, non-rational act so you don’t pay any attention to what you are eating and above all to the quantities. You may have eaten two packs of chips, as well as eaten a feast of chicken wings. There is no calculation. You just eat until you feel emotionally satisfied. Or rather, something inwardly calms down.
This nervous eating has no physiological limits. It is certainly not the fact that you feel full and full that stops you.
An important aspect is that of feelings of guilt . It is a factor that I have always noticed in people who, although they do not suffer from real eating disorders, are unable to conceive of nutrition in a more rational way.
Then you immediately feel guilty and inflict punishments that obviously involve food, but which should instead affect the psychological causes of nervous hunger.
This phenomenon occurs above all because those who are subject to episodes of nervous hunger can easily become overweight and see weight gain as an enemy to fight, even if it does not depend on physiological eating habits , but precisely from a form of emotional response. Some research suggests that some forms of psychological distress and suffering lead to weight gain through the mechanism of nervous hunger, seen as a solution, but which actually ends up being a cause of problems that are increasingly difficult to manage.
A similar phenomenon is the disorder related to night hunger . This is talked about when a person also includes a night feeding phase in the daily food routine.
Since you eat while awake … it’s related to the fact that you can’t sleep (source), but that’s not always the case.
In fact, in the symptoms of night hunger we can include: the lack of appetite in the morning, motivated by the night meal.
Recurring episodes of insomnia and difficulty falling asleep.
The false belief that you need to eat to go back to sleep.
Anxiety, stress and episodes of depression that accompany both the lack of daytime appetite and the urge to provide an immediate response to the psychological need to eat.
In particular, the use of nighttime snacks has been associated with episodes of obesity, which in any case would bring night hunger back into the spectrum of eating disorders rather than in the field of sleep disorders. Notwithstanding that there remains a gray area in which it is difficult to separate the two disturbances.
The remedies I propose to you
Since these disorders are often linked or even caused by false beliefs, one of the strategies I recommend is to find mechanisms that slow down the flow of thoughts , of actions in such a way as to make emerge awareness, and here I want to mention some that I think are important and very operational:
1. Create obstacles.
Create fictional obstacles that keep some distance between you and the element that can cause you to lose control.
Let’s take an example: if I keep a handful of snacks, snacks, biscuits in the drawer next to the desk, well I’ll just reach out, open the drawer and eat them.
It can almost become an automatic gesture that doesn’t require any effort, so the unconscious part, the irrational part, risks taking over.
What is a bit different is if I don’t have snacks and I have to go and buy them every time I get this urge. This need to go and buy them will slow down the flow of nerve stimuli and allow my reason to come back to the surface and say, “No wait a minute, you decided you weren’t going to eat the snacks, so don’t go and buy them, just sit there and think of something else “.
2. Create a “protective mantra”.
A reinforcing phrase and get used to repeating it every time you introduce food in any condition this happens, whether you are introducing the right food in a rational way, or if you are moving towards a drive that you know you must hold back.
A mantra could be “I only eat what is good for me” or “I only eat what I need to feed myself”. If you get used to repeating this thing and making it really become a habit, something that comes automatically every time there is an opportunity to take food, you will realize that at some point it will become a protective mechanism, another useful mechanism. to bring awareness, to make you remember what your goals are and to keep you on those there.
Same thing for the other piece of advice I want to give you: take three deep breaths every time you are about to eat .
Deep breaths slow down the action, slow you down, but above all they activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is that branch of the autonomic nervous system that allows in these circumstances to regain a little bit of the lost ground and among other things to feel more effectively stimulates satiety, so take you to eat a little less.
3. Another very important point I want to tell you is: avoid multitasking at all costs.
Multitasking is a problem for many reasons , doing 5-6 things together only leads you to do them all badly, even if you do them in parallel, but above all multitasking, due to its nature , favors automatic negative mechanisms of which not even you notice .
So for example eating while you are driving, eating while you are working on the computer, eating in front of the television is wrong and makes it easier for you to overdo it.
When you eat, just eat, when you drive, just drive, it’s safer too .
Multitasking is very common nowadays but it is actually a rip off on many levels, even thinking that even walking while eating has been proven wrong and leads people to eat more.
To eat you have to sit down and concentrate on what is on your plate.
Avoid eating from packaging as this makes you lose track of how much you are eating .
In short, you have to go back to the old habits of sitting at the table 3 times a day and what you had to eat was on your plate, full stop.
These are some small tips that can really be valid in operational terms to avoid falling into those impulsivity traps, which actually make a negative difference for all those people trying to eat right and keep their weight under control. / p>
When it comes to sleep, try to improve the conditions in which you sleep, to promote it.
As far as food is concerned, establish routines: don’t eat messily and overtime, eat healthy and fresh, try not to eat too much protein meals in the evening and if you exercise, avoid doing it too close to sleep .
Regularity helps in this case.
In general, give the right importance to nutrition: eating well means eating well, eating better and eating right. Everything must be commensurate with the physical and intellectual efforts you make during your day, as well as your basal metabolic rate. Try not to eat badly and not to eat too much or too little.
If you are following a weight loss diet and you have to wake up at night to gorge yourself nervously on potato chips it is obvious that either you are not feeding yourself enough or you are attributing willpower to such an excessive role that you basically eat to make up for losses when your attention span drops.
This also applies to all those episodes of nervous hunger to which you attribute a power of comfort that they do not possess.
Nutrition is essential to feel good and must be included in the framework of your daily routine, as an element of balance, so that it can give you the energy you need, with the preventive action that today is recognized at those foods that fall within the category of proper nutrition.