New York: We've all had our occasional binge of chocolate and our 3am scoops of ice cream. This is the classic sign of a food craving, an uncontrollable desire to satisfy our sweet tooth. This craving, more often than not, tends to turn into a necessity, something that will get fulfilled only after grabbing that last bite of gulab jamun.
However, although the common perception is that of satisfaction being the only solution, studies have shown that our mind can be conditioned to get us out of this situation, according to CNN. "Most cravings are emotional, and there's a difference between emotional hunger and actual hunger. Cravings will go away if you wait them out, but people rarely do this," said Mary Beth Sodus, a Nutritional Therapist and Registered Dietician at the University Of Maryland Medical Center.
According to Sodus, sugar cravings, carbohydrate and caffeine addiction rank highest is terms of food items that can instill a sense of craving, for a wide variety of reasons spanning across the need for energy to the need for comfort. However, Sodus believes people can fend off these needs by being more mindful of them, since it can be an antidote to cravings.
There are certain food products that help quenching cravings, such as grapefruit, small red baked potatoes, carrots, and salads, which can buy time to waiver the intense craving. Anne Hsu, a Behavioural Scientist at Queen Mary's University of London drew a parallel between obesity and overeating, the root cause of this being the inability to control one's cravings.
While Sodus' work focuses on mindful eating, Hsu's research group is looking to tap the potential of distracting one's mind. "It doesn't work to just tell people not to eat something. All behaviors come from underlying desires and changing the root cause of that behavior could have more affect," said Hsu. A widely tested theory in the field of nutrition is that food cravings exist because people are imagining them. Hsu believes that rather than trying to defer the craving, an individual must focus on diverting their attention using their imagination skills "If you hijack that part of the brain [imagining the food] then it can't sustain the craving anymore," notes Hsu.
On the other hand, studies have shown that a credible way of controlling cravings is by playing the computer game, Tetris. "Playing Tetris decreased craving strength for drugs, food, and activities from 70 percent to 56 percent. This is the first demonstration that cognitive interference can be used outside the lab to reduce cravings," said Jackie Andrade from Plymouth University, who led the study, in a statement. So the next time you feel like the day will never end without binging on that four-cheese pizza or a sumptuous portion of crisp french fries, think again!