Food cravings are one of the most difficult challenges we face when it comes to losing weight, maintaining weight, and eating healthy. Although in their origins cravings are healthy, in the modern world they are bent out of shape. This is because the foods we have the strongest cravings for were rare in the wild. So we have strong cravings to make us eat as much of them as possible. But in the modern environment we have almost limitless access to all the things we desire. But our bodies don’t know they are living in the modern world, and keep our cravings dialed high.
There are three types of cravings. Association cravings, confused cravings, and accurate cravings. Accurate cravings are when we genuinely need the exact thing we are craving. This is usually limited to cravings for simple, fresh foods. If you would happily eat a few grains of salt, that’s a real salt craving. Whereas if you want fries with salt, that is an association craving. Association cravings are where we expect certain foods together, in certain amounts, or at certain times. We don’t need more than a piece of fruit or two a day. But if you always have five, you will crave fruit until you eat five pieces. And finally, confused cravings are where you mix up a craving for a micronutrient with a craving for a whole food. We need magnesium. But if chocolate is your richest magnesium source, then you will crave chocolate.
There are many ways of fighting cravings, and many of them work. But one tried and tested way is a low carb, high fat diet. These diets work on multiple fronts to reduce food cravings and, when followed correctly, will help you understand and fight cravings to ensure you eat as healthy as possible.
Carbs are a food where the more we eat of them, the more we crave them. This is because they feed our insulin cycles and are easy to store. As in the wild carbs would have been rare, we start eating as much as we can. This raises our blood sugar. When our blood sugar is too high, our body releases insulin. Our insulin moves the glucose in our blood into our fat and muscle cells. And this crash makes us hungry again. But as carbs are a fast, “rare” energy source, we crave them again.
Whereas sugar takes us for a satiety rollercoaster, fat provides us the sort of slow and steady release that encourages more stable satiety. As we are already burning fat and ketones when we eat low carb, if we run out of fuel our bodies are much happier to use our own body fat. This results in a more stable appetite and fewer cravings.
The longer we go eating low carb, high fat, the more we fight the low satiety of high carbs and develop the full satiety of high fat. When we follow this diet we are essentially retraining our bodies to think of carbs as rare, complementary calorie sources, and fats as abundant, primary calorie sources.
Many of our richest sources of vital nutrients also come in carb form. This is not actually the natural way of things. The best nutrients for us are flavorless, acid, or bitter. But we often avoid these foods in favor of ones that taste milder or sweeter. This means that reducing our carb intake will allow our bodies to develop new, healthy confused cravings for foods that are much richer in micronutrients. Avoid chocolates and have nuts for magnesium instead, eat nonsweet fruit, and enjoy offal for minerals, and before long you will crave these things, not candy bars.
Finally, eating fewer carbs fine-tunes us to our cravings, letting us know when they are accurate. If you eat high carb all the time, you will just crave carbs, without distinguishing between the different nutrients you need. You may even confuse thirst for wanting more carbs. On the other hand, when you eat low carb you become more aware of the nuances of every food, and crave specific foods for their nutrients, not just their taste.