Food cravings are a very common phenomenon. More than 90% of the people concerned are confronted with it. All people have specific needs. But these are normally transient and frequently target processed food products, high in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats. Research reveals that men are more likely to succumb to salty foods, and conversely, women are more likely to succumb to sugary and high-fat products.
Food cravings can lead to the consumption of foods with adverse health effects, and may compromise efforts to adopt a balanced diet. The nutritionist and dietician Sophie Janvier transmits in her book “The gentle method for better eating” her method to control these cravings: the RAS method (Breathe, Wait, Savor).
The RAS method:
A craving cannot be felt forever, it will inevitably end up “crashing like a wave”. When the desire to eat arises, the specialist recommends focusing first on your breathing, for several minutes. As you close your eyes, take a deep breath and visualize the wave rising and inevitably falling. Then exhale. Repeat this operation for five minutes and then observe how you feel.
The second action provided by this method is to wait. Indeed, according to the dietetics/nutrition specialist, after five minutes of breathing, the cravings have already diminished. After ten minutes, at least one in two people will have given up snacking. The professional recommends waiting while taking stock of yourself: ask yourself, for example, the reason for this desire, the elements likely to have caused it. This way, you can identify the triggers and fear them less the next time.
Finally, the letter S in the RAS formula stands for “Savor”. This simply implies that if the need still persists after 10 minutes, it should be taken into account. If despite the efforts of breathing and reflection, the need persists, then it is completely justified. For the professional, after having carried out the two previous exercises, we will be able to snack in healthier conditions.
What are the factors that influence food cravings?
Common triggers for food cravings can be influenced by physical, mental, and behavioral factors.
The physical factor:
Blood sugar, dopamine, and physiological responses tend to play a big role in food cravings. Highly palatable foods, especially those high in added sugars, trigger the release of dopamine and reward systems in the brain, which generally encourage the consumption of foods beyond our energy needs. This overconsumption, especially of added sugars, can then lead to a diminished ability to distinguish between true hunger and cravings.
The mental :
Emotions can have a huge impact on our diet. Fear, stress, anxiety, joy, pleasure and boredom are common feelings that can affect our eating habits. One study showed that emotions, especially negative emotions, were associated with a greater tendency to use food as a coping mechanism. This causes more intense feelings of hunger.
Naturally, short periods of positive stress (like exercise) can reduce our desire to eat. However, chronic or acute emotional stress in people who have a habit of eating as a coping mechanism can lead to overeating. Especially when it comes to energy-dense foods. Emotional eaters, especially, have been shown to consume more sugary and fatty foods during times of acute stress.
The behaviour :
Some cause feelings of nostalgia. Whether it’s the smell of your grandmother’s baking or the sound of your favorite childhood cartoon, these triggers can lead to intense cravings for specific foods. In some cases, these cravings may simply be a response to a new environment or situation. For example, you may crave comfort foods when you’re homesick or stressed. However, in other cases, food cravings can be a sign that something is missing from your diet.
If you’re constantly craving sweets, for example, that may be a sign that you’re not getting enough carbs. Likewise, if you crave salty snacks, it may be a sign that you need more sodium in your diet. Either way, it’s important to listen to your body and address any underlying nutritional deficiencies. Only then can you break the cycle of nostalgic cravings.