The Neuroscience of Controlling Cravings

Craving are all around us. I do know that fast food restaurants and grocery stores use our cravings to play psychological games on us, in order to sell us more high profit products. I had worked at the Bay, a Canadian department store, who merchandised products based on psychological analysis, habits and cravings. This all I know. Yet cravings are often difficult to control, and can lead to over-purchase, over-eating and weight gain.

While explaining some of the physiological reasons for cravings, at the bottom are some hints and tips in controlling or stopping cravings. While the science is interesting, the control part is the meat of the matter. Our evolution makes us hyper-aware of high calorie, energy dense food, which is useful for not starving to death. While this was good in past centuries, we no longer need to follow this, but our physiology cannot change as quickly as our brains. Our bodies are not easily persuaded to not eat them.

  1. Cravings are triggered: Find your craving and try not to trigger it. For example, the local donut shop smells great, so you might walk a different route in order to not smell those donuts and not have a craving
  2. Distract your craving: Cravings happen in short-term memory, so push them out of focus. Tap your forehead and count backwards from 100. Chances are you will be distracted and kill your craving
  3. Cravings are habitual: Do without them for a couple of weeks and the craving will be much less. Give into the craving and your next craving will be stronger.
  4. Cravings can be associated with different objects. For example ice cream and couch. Every time you sit on a couch you crave ice cream

It is clear that cravings are deeper than just a physiological need for specific foods. Our battle with our evolution continues.

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