All of us have experienced food cravings. That unrelenting urge to whip up a strawberry and vanilla milkshake and drink every last, creamy drop. Or the undeniable desire for the sweet and savory taste of sweet potato fries. Food cravings are a universal phenomenon, although men tend to crave savory foods and women are the ones with a sweet tooth.
Food cravings and hunger are not the same thing. Hunger is controlled by a biological need for food to sustain the body’s functions. On the other hand, food cravings are governed by the brain. Foods high is fat, calories, and sugar bind receptors in the brain that induce feelings of pleasure and delight. In addition, sensory memories of these wonderful, and emotionally addictive, feelings reinforce food cravings.
Unfortunately, we are all born with food cravings. Yes, even babies can have food cravings. The need for high-calorie food is an adaptive trait that allows fetuses and infants to grow. But this “need” never leaves us, even as we mature into adults, so food cravings follow us throughout our entire lives.
So what can be done about food cravings? College student like ourselves are especially susceptible to food cravings, thanks to stress from school work, lack of sleep and easy accessibility of food. All cravings begin with a cue, so know what cues induce your food cravings. In addition, make sure you are eating healthy, balanced, and regular meals. Food deprivation forces your body into starvation mode, and as a result your body feels the need for food high in calories to continue functioning. Of course, it is perfectly normal to succumb to food cravings once in a while. But don’t blame it on yourself, blame it on your brain chemistry!