Beat the militancy of most diets’ downfalls with moderation. Restriction doesnt work.
Everyone gets them, don’t be fooled. It is how you handle cravings that is what is important.  Cravings occur out of thin air, and are what typically set fat loss goals back or halts them all together. This is mostly because they are so discouraging and you feel like you’ve failed on your diet. But you truly have not.
They are going to happen. We are inherently predisposed to crave. So do not fight the current. Pick up your feet and take measures that help you suspend them and understand them. What is important is how you react to these urges and cravings as well as the precautionary measures you take to keep them from being impediments to your goals.
Everyone gets them. It is how you handle them is what is very important.
The statistics show many people can’t handle their cravings for the long term. It’s reached endemic quantities on a global scale, with more than 1.6 billion adults overweight and  at least 400 million obese adults. (the current U.S. population is 322,762,018 to put a perspective) 
This high prominence of obesity isn’t attributed solely to cravings but it isn’t an embellishment to the extent that it contributes to it. The mechanisms that dislodge our self control do play an integral component to people gaining unwanted and unhealthy fat.



How do they happen?


Internal and external cues can trigger cravings as well as the natural cravings we all have arise and fall.
Dieting IS difficult. Losing fat is difficult. But it can be made as effortlessly as possible. 
It is a natural and essential practice every day to eat. Eating is essential but overeating isn’t. There are copious amounts of factors that interact with appetite, food intake, and fat loss.
Appetite is a complex process involving numerous internal and external signals. The internal cues are psychological, social, and physiological. External cues can also be psychologically, socially and physiologically induced.
Have you ever seen a commercial and became hungry? That’s an external signal or cue! Sight and smell of food or circadian patterns (e.g., time of day), can also influence the desire to eat.
What are these mechanisms of desire?


Cravings are rewards and gratifications. Food is essential and potent toward our reward stimulation in our brains. Eating food that gratifies, through bodily interactions, leads to dopamine production in the brain. This is a good thing! Cravings aren’t inherently evil. If they weren’t around  else people would forget to eat and starve to death. This rewarding process keeps us wanting to eat food.



The hypothalamus, in the brain, plays an integral regulator of this feeling of satiety and hunger, it creates signals to either stimulate or suppress appetite.
A lot of cravings come down to habitualness of a certain food. If a food is eaten repeatedly it creates a reward pathway in the brain that creates gratification (dopamine production once eaten).  
Repeating this behavior over and over creates a pathway that outweighs hunger and satiety signals but rather a memory of the previous pathway and dopamine response (the memory of the reward and what happened before and after that reward happened). Our body can no longer determine when it is actually hungry.
Foods directly influence brain neurotransmitter structures. These structures either inhibit or encourage moods, emotions, and sensations. Then creating a spiraling up or spiraling down effect, that influences our future food choices.



Neurobiological factors


Reward related learning is essential, it isn’t diabolical.  It is what allows us to survive. Memory plays an important factor in this learned behavior. When a memory, for this particular instance, is stored it associates a sensation and environment in which that sensation occurs. There are just certain substances in accordance to repeated actions that hijack and create intense associations with the reward related learning, having negative effects. This is similar to what drugs do.  These substances create the natural learning of rewards and memory storage about those rewards.
Environmental cues go along with the desired substance along with the cues in accordance to them and are stored as memories. Actions, behaviors and feelings are stored so they can be repeated to acquire the pleasurable response again.
Memories of environments and substances  create a pleasurable response to be sought out again. This  innate feature of the brain is simply a conditioned response to seek out what is essential (eating food) to sustain the body. This is not bad. The negative conditioned behavior is what is unhealthy and unhelpful.
The hippocampus lays down these memories of this rapid sense of satisfaction, and the amygdala creates a conditioned response to certain stimuli to try and reproduce the same result. 

Compensate for the reward deficit.

What is a tremendous finding to this neurobiological portion of food, memory, and energy intake is that dopamine plays an incredible factor. Dopamine increases when eating which solidifies the behavior making it pleasurable so you return and eat again. Obese individuals have been shown to be less receptive to dopamine. This can create a type of runaway effect where the person is less sensitive to dopamine.  As a means to make up for this decreased response, it takes a greater intake of food to get  similar dopamine levels and pleasure as compared to a healthy weight individual. Thus, overweight and obese individuals will continue to eat more and more. 
“The moment an addictive individual sees a person they’ve taken the drug with or drug paraphernalia, dopamine release triggers an enormous desire to take the drug,” says Volkow. “And that’s why they relapse.”
When it comes to food, the cues are everywhere. “This hyper-response to the cues–and reduced response to the food–implies that obese people may not have a compromised dopamine response to begin with,” says Burger. 
When you see the commercial and become hungry your satiety and hunger cues are overridden by the pathway of gratification you associate with the commercial. (1)
We know that the regulation of appetite and energy intake is influenced by numerous hormonal and neural signals, including feedback from changes in diet and exercise.
Outside factors matter on how we feel and approach things that have no relevance to the actual task at hand.
How we react to stimuli is different even upon the slightest change in the environment. For example, a study conducted with a trained actor saying the exact same lines to hundreds of people. The actor approaching asked a participant to hold their coffee. Everyone had different opinions toward the stranger. The sole determinant on how people felt toward the trained actor was the temperature of the coffee. People who had been handed warm coffee tended to feel like the stranger was warm and forthcoming. The ice coffee receivers felt the trained actor who said the exact same lines to them was standoffish, egocentric, and cold. Hows that for a depiction of environment changes attitude.
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How satiety and stomach hormones play a factor

Hormones associated with appetite suppression.


Leptin helps to decrease appetite. The more body fat you have the higher amounts of leptin you make. Leptin has been shown to be produced mostly by fat tissue  When leptin is released from your body fat into the blood it is believed that leptin decreases NYP production. NYP is a potent stimulant for the signaling food intake is needed. Leptin elicits signals to the brain that change energy expenditure (moving) and energy intake(eating) . This constant influx and high levels of leptin creates a similar effect as to high levels of dopamine over a long duration. It lessens leptin receptivity.  People who have high levels over long periods obtain a resistance or tolerance to the hormone. Keeping them in a state of hunger. If the duration to these levels of leptin are long enough, it can eventually no longer signal to the brain and contribute to overeating.
Leptin in the long term acts to reduce food intake and to cause a decrease in body fat.
Other known hormones to decrease appetite and food intake. 
Factors that are known to increase satiety and reduce cravings.
  •         Hormones serotonin, made from the amino acid tryptophan, and cholecystokinin 
  •         Increase in blood glucose levels
  •         Stomach expansion
  •         Nutrient absorption in the small intestine



What is the hunger hormone most notable?

It is a hormone that stimulates hunger. Ghrelin, mainly produced by the stomach, is distinctive in that it fuels hunger, It acts upon the hypothalamus to stimulate appetite.
It may also be involved in long term body weight control. Ghrelin has been shown to stimulate the part of the brain that secretes dopamine called the VTA. This secretion of dopamine can create strong memories and associations of eating certain foods with high amounts of pleasure. Thus having cravings and having a more emotional pull towards certain types of foods.
The levels of ghrelin increase before a meal and near an hour after the meal.
Also increases in ghrelin also led individuals to eat spontaneously when there were no food cues and also no time cues. 
Why do you want to suppress ghrelin? Exercise induced weight loss over one year resulted in an increase in plasma ghrelin, which STIMULATES appetite. The appetite will be stimulated to help deter additional fat loss. If you are hungry (never fun) then you are going to eat more (halting any fat loss) making your workouts senseless.


Biofeedback to how much you eat



Photo courtesy of


Physiological systems within the body occur in the short and long term. These are important because it regulates the body’s metabolic processes.
There are certain hormones that either increase or decrease how much you seek out to eat until you feel satisfied. This is a complex dance between hormones, metabolism, the gut, and the brain.
For example,
When food is ingested, your stomach expands, receptors made up in the stomach lining send signals to the brain that it is time to decrease food intake. Concomitantly, there are vast amounts of processes and hormones within that process.


Factors decrease satiety
  • Hormones that enhance a sense of pleasure while eating referred to as beta endorphins, creating more food intake
  • Amino acid Neuropeptide Y, which stimulates appetite.
  • Decreased blood glucose levels such as an overnight fast.
It seems like we are at the mercy of our cravings by these pathways and hormones!
Maybe, but if we can understand them then we can mediate them as much as possible. Understanding the triggers, tribulations, and pitfalls that will impede your goal, you then create better habits around them.
You can take precautionary measures and being mindful of stimuli and cues that flip these craving switches.
Chocoholics get the fame most of the time with studies dealing with appetite. Walking can actually induce an appetite suppression effect.
More on the benefits of walking 
Another is mindful eating practices 



Modifications you can use instantly 

Understanding social circumstances and watching them, noticing what stressors, environmental triggers, cravings, and desires arise. 


Determine the type of food you can moderate your intake on.
If there are certain foods you are constantly overindulge in and its damaging your fat loss you may want to refrain from having them, and find foods that are sweet and satisfying you like and can also have a moderate amount of.
Allow for moderation. If you cannot simply have a moderate quantity of a type of food you crave, such as cake or cookies, then eat something similar you can ingest in a smaller portion that does satisfy. Rather than the whole baker’s dozen.
How active are you. Do you walk a lot? Is there a lot of sitting involved in your job? The higher the stress and the more you move matters day to day. 
Location of eating. Do you eat in front of the TV Do you eat at the office where there are a lot of high calorie choices? Distracted eating removes memory formation and doesnt send signals to your brain that you are full. More on eating less distracted here
Time you eat. If you get hungry at night try and allot your meals for later in the day or later at night. This will push back your satiety so you don’t over indulge and do not go to bed hungry. 
Persons you eat with. Do you eat more when you are alone or with groups?
Emotional states. How do you feel when you eat? You might eat more when stressed, happy, or sad or vice versa
Just simply understanding how you interact with all of these states can help lead to behavioral change. The mere fact you are noticing these states and emotions arise is beneficial. 
Proximity matters
Keep foods that you cannot control yourself or overindulge on out of the home. Food that is available readily for consumption can potentially elicit stronger reward system activity than food that is not currently available for consumption this is referred to as “nudging” 
Lessening accessibility of caloric dense and nutrient sparse food and increasing availability of low calorie foods and nutrient dense food in daily life.


Tips when buying foods
Buy foods closest to their natural state.  Or second state, one that is just one process away from natural, such as frozen blueberries.
Do not shop when hungry.
Stay the majority of the time on the outside edges of the store, that is typically where the freshest food resides.
Make a list and do not splurge or stray from it.


How to reduce cravings

The type and quantity of food intake influences appetite and energy intake. Appetite-regulating hormones released from the gut in response to food intake provide feedback to the hypothalamus and, subsequently influence appetite.
Some ways to reduce cravings is dealing with satiety in the present meal. Eating nutrient dense food helps with satiety so you will be less likely to have urges. The more voluminous a food is, the more satisfying it is and reduces cravings and urges eating more.
Eating highly processed foods, with large amounts of refined carbohydrates and/or fat, are associated with behavioral  symptoms similar to addictive eating. Additionally, foods with high glycemic load were especially related to addictive-like eating problems for individuals endorsing elevated symptoms of “food addiction.”
Glycemic load not only depicts the quantity of carbohydrates that are refined in the food but it also represents how quickly absorption and transference into the system occur. Similarly, addictive substances are concentrated and a fast pace in which it is absorbed. A lot of prominent research has proposed these high glycemic load foods have the capability of activating neural circuitry that is reward related parallel to the addictive materials. Consequently, increasing hunger, craving, and over-consumption of energy. (2). (3.)
Food cues in obesity and drug cues are different in some variations but there are also strong comparisons when it comes to neural responses when both are inducted to each of the individual substances separately. (4)(5).
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Improving healthy eating


Understanding nutrition.

Nutrition knowledge has been positively associated with diet quality 
Food has to taste good as well. Making it “tasty’’ is important as well.
Those who read labels on food goods have higher diet qualities 
Food you like are crucial to long term adherence to keeping your fat loss permanent


here are sound sources for understanding nutrition
Choose My Plate 
Harvards 5 tips to understanding food labels
American Heart association how to read food labels

Portion control

There is other things that are simply unconscious that effect your intake. There is an effect referred to as – pack size effect. The larger the container food comes in, generally, the more energy intake is consumed from that food. Being cognizant and having a reminder that you do not need to eat mass quantities of cookies helps. If you are not mindlessly eating you have a much less risk for eating in a much more healthy and restrained manner. (6).
Moving consumers towards consumption of smaller portion sizes will require changes in consumer behavior as well as changes in products available to consumers in a variety of settings
 The more militant you are the worse it is going to be. If you focus on removing all of the negative food rather than focusing on implementing healthy choices it greatly determines the overall success and well-being of the quality of the diet. 
 Your outlook on food matters. Your attitude matters quite a great deal in relation to your success and if your fat loss will be long lasting. You can’t beat yourself down by thinking negatively towards food
Even using side to side eye movements for short bouts have show to reduce choosing unhealthy snacks to healthy snack choices 
Tips for accessing portions on food goods.
First look at the serving size and access the entire box, bag, or item is and process do you see yourself coming back to this item this number of times, does this box or bag look like it would satisfy 7 people if it was all prepared at one setting.
Improve cooking skills 



Behavioral change

It’s important that your relation towards food isn’t negative. If you feel like you are being deprived or are going to be deprived in the future you are going to eat exponentially more in the present moment. The scheduling of a diet or a deprivation can trigger an onslaught of overeating at the present meal or next coming meal.
Setting goals, having help from your social circle and problem solving are known effective paths to travel when attempting behavioral change  , (7)
Eating good nutritious foods you like is very important
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Dietary cues matter. A habitual response to even just merely looking at the food label of a food or googling it with your phone IS A DIETARY CUE. This can greatly reduce your intake just by letting you remember you are conscious and in control of what you eat.

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Militant restriction just leads to more and more cravings
Behavior intervention has been associated with a term called “clustering” where there were associations with healthy behaviors clustering together. Such as individuals who exercised were also significantly likely to eat healthy. This can be potentially powerful to behavioral change. If you alter a state in which you behave in just one aspect it can create momentum and have a much higher likelihood of altering other areas.
Mindfulness eating there have been a lot of thorough and promising findings in the relationship between psychological distress and patterns of emotional eating. Mindfulness has shown to suppress that.  Here is an additional mindfulness eating article
There is a lot when it comes to understanding the systematic relation between the mind and body. But with some of these approaches you can limit and reduce the incessant pull of cravings and hunger. If you approach food with more of a holistic path and understanding that cravings happen then you are much closer to understanding what trigger points and pitfalls happen within them as well. Making it a multi-level approach, understanding the social cues, the physiological cues and environmental impacts that influence can extremely reduce your interaction to unhealthy eating and subjectivity to your cravings.
Additional sources
Journal of Neurological Sciences [Turkish] 33:(2)# 48; 392-400, 2016 Review Food Addiction and Obesity Reci MESERİ 1 , Ayşegül BİLGE2 , Özge KÜÇÜKERDÖNMEZ3 , Ender ALTINTOPRAK44
Health-Promoting and Health-Risk Behaviors: Theory-Driven Analyses of Multiple Health Behavior Change in Three International Samples Sonia Lippke & Claudio R. Nigg & Jason E. Maddock
The Moderating Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Distress and Emotional Eating Behaviour Aileen Pidgeon, Klaire Lacota, and James Champion Department of Psychology, Bond University


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