To achieve overall health, reach your goal weight, and feel good doing so, its important to understand where your cravings are coming from and why! Aside from providing great pleasure and enjoyment, the nutrients and energy your body needs to function; food also has an influence on appetite and moods. Research shows that certain foods and lifestyle patterns affect powerful mood-modifying brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, take a look below at these guys:
- Serotonin — this is a chemical released after eating carbohydrates (sugars and starches). It enhances calmness, improves mood, and lessens depression. Serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan. High levels of serotonin help control appetite, satisfy cravings, and provide a feeling of well-being and inner calm.
- Dopamine and norepinephrine — these are chemicals released after eating protein (meats, poultry, dairy, legumes). They enhance mental concentration and alertness. These neurotransmitters come from the amino acid tyrosine.
- Ghrelin — a neurotransmitter that sets up an irresistible urge to eat when elevated
- NPY, neuropeptide Y — increases carbohydrate cravings when elevated
- Galanin — increases the desire for fatty foods when elevated
- Cortisol — the emergency gland of the body, the adrenals releases cortisol as the primary coordinator for the reactions of stress. Cortisol decreases the production of serotonin. If you normally eat to relieve stress, the hormone cortisol places the extra calories (fat) in the abdomen or stomach area of your body.
- Endorphins — the body’s natural “high'” which gives pain relief and pleasure when elevated
Why is this important?!
As you lower calories to lose weight, you starve your brain first and that depletes serotonin (a neurotransmitter which helps you feel calm, peaceful, and contented, and has a pivotal role in regulating appetite). This leads to increasing cravings for different foods, depression, anxiety, lethargy, feelings of hopelessness or rage all increase. Typical dieting means an immediate cutback on the production of chemicals that support health of your mind, your psyche, and your spirit.
If you skip meals, this will lead to your blood sugar levels going abnormally low and intense cravings to start. This also causes an increase in ghrelin (a neurotransmitter that sets up an irresistible urge to eat) and lowers neuropeptide Y, which increases carbohydrate cravings. This then leads to an unstoppable desire to eat More as well as and increases your eating frequency, which leads to binging…not what you wanted to happen!
As you lower calories to lose weight, this will lower insulin and your thyroid hormone, which lowers your metabolism and also lowers the release of fat from your body meaning you can’t lose weight as easily and may end up on a plateau.
As you eat more dietary fat, this will increase endorphins (the body’s natural “high”, which gives pain relief and pleasure). Research has also shown that the neurotransmitter galanin increases the desire for fatty foods. The more fat in a person’s diet, the more galanin is produced and the more galanin that’s produced, the more one prefers or craves fattier foods. Research has also shown that eating less fat for several weeks reduces galanin levels and the desire to eat fatty foods. So the less fat (and refined carbohydrates you eat), the less you want.
Eating extra dietary carbohydrate (starches and sugars) will raise serotonin, which makes you feel calm and relaxed. So you can see how the usual combination of sugar and fat (many desserts) set you up to feel calm and contented, and can easily set up cravings for additional desserts because you want that inner state of calm and contentment.
Stress is also a common reason for over eating as well as emotional eating. Two out of three people eat more, when under stress, and don’t usually overeat vegetables or healthy nourishing foods, rather sweets and sugar filled desserts.
When loneliness or stress increase, this leads to an increase in cortisol, which leads to deposits of abdominal fat and makes it more difficult to lost weight or keep it off.
SLEEP – 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night is vital to your health. There is a strong link between the amount of sleep people get and their risk of becoming overweight. Sleep deprivation ↓ leptin, a blood protein that suppresses appetite, and ↑ grehlin, a substance that makes people want to eat. After a night of sleep deprivation, people typically consume 10% more calories!
If your feeling down or have a case of the “blues” your body thinks you need to find something as a reward, this leads to the increase of dopamine, which will lead to an increase in desire for food and an increase in attention to searching out enjoyable eating experiences or rewarding actions.
Positive thoughts lead to a rise in serotonin, which lowers your desire for food, and increases your satisfaction, all of which helps control your temper, improve your sleep, while balancing sexual urges, and enhancing your memory.
When you eat favorite foods this increases endorphins which also lead to an increase in your eating speed. Take time to enjoy your dishes, mindfully, chewing properly to enhance digestion!
A rise in norepinephrine causes an increase in negative feelings, feelings of distrust, and increasing the desire to fight or flee from unpleasant situations
Endorphins (the body’s natural opiates which give a “high”) when they are low, this leads to an increase of the urge to get relief or pleasure, desire for junk foods, excess exercise, or alcohol.
Exercise naturally raises endorphins and control NPY (neuropeptide Y) which lowers anxiety and carbohydrate cravings and increases feelings of contentment.
After a person exercises, abnormal cortisol levels lower, dopamine lowers (arousal hormone), and norepinephrine lowers, which leads to appetite suppression and mood stability…and at last you feel better!
I know all of this sounds scientific and tricky, but in all honestly, the better you are at understanding your body and it’s needs, the better choices you can make nutritional wise and be on a path to feeling better than ever! I hope you can apply these tips towards your nutrition goals. If your in need of 1-1 nutritional coaching, you can find a few different package options in the NN Shop here!
Move Fast, Eat Slow, Live Well,