Cooked Food Cravings: Why Do They Happen?

During a recent email consultation, a great question was asked that I thought would really benefit all of you. With permission, I’m posting the question along with my answer.

 

 Q. I’ve had another off day today – I was doing really well, however my stomach was hurting so I decided to slow everything down a little & added in 3 small cooked potatoes into my salad for dinner. Anyway, that sparked off some huge cravings within me, and I ended up snacking on some potato chips & a bit of chocolate before going to bed !!!!!!!!!!! NOT happy about that!!

However, it’s gone now so I won’t make that mistake again tomorrow – I guess I should have eaten some fruit when those cravings took hold, I just didn’t think of that option at the time. Doug Graham always says to eat fruit when a craving takes hold.

Do you know why cooked foods cause craving within us, as I was completely taken by shock this evening when I was craving so badly after only 3 small potatoes? Normally on this diet, when I’m totally 100% I don’t get any cravings at all, so I was very shocked by this.

Anyway, I won’t do this again tomorrow so I know already tomorrow will be a better day. And I’m growing in tolerance of myself because I’m seeing this journey this time around as more of a process rather than it having to be totally perfect all the time – I’m accepting that I’ll have messy days, as long as I stick to the plan, then it’ll all come good in the end, and that’s the difference this time round, no matter what happens, I’m back on the plan the next day.

 

 A. You asked a great question, one that has multiple answers. Cooked foods can be addictive and may cause cravings for many reasons.

There are so many emotions and memories connected to the food we eat and most of it is very positive. These wonderful experiences make it easy to associate food with feeling good. Every culture uses food and spices during celebrations and holidays as part of tradition, to create a certain mood or vibe which we become very attached to. We find joy in preparing foods that our parents or grandparents made because it brings back fond memories of the past. In our constant desire to feel better, especially while detoxing, it’s easy to be drawn to the foods of our past that are associated with making us feel good. There are even certain experiences that conjure cravings for specific foods in an instant. For example, the male population may get really excited as the World Series approaches and all they can think about is hot dogs and beer. The female crowd, however, will most likely relate to a chocolate craving sparked by a television or print image, that tantalized them until they satisfied that desire.

Sometimes food, like the potatoes for you, may trigger past memories that are connected to other foods, which could be what led you to potato chips and then chocolate. As a child, my summer holidays were often spent eating potato salad, Pringles or Lay’s potato chips and chocolate fudgsicles for dessert! I used to love these foods and they’re all associated with great memories for me. Subconsciously, it’s normal to want to re-create those positive feelings, and just like music can take you back in time to a specific place or feeling, it can also be done with food.

Another interesting fact is cows milk and wheat both contain opioid peptides which are highly addictive just like opiate drugs. According to Wikipedia, “Opioid peptides are short sequences of amino acids that bind to opioid receptors in the brain; opiates and opioids mimic the effect of these peptides.” That’s one of the reasons it’s so hard to give up cheese and bread. Just think of all the foods that contain wheat and dairy!

In addition, cooked foods usually contain a lot of excitotoxins which are extremely addictive, as well as damaging to our bodies. Here’s a short list, just to name a few, that you’ll likely recognize.

Monosodium glutamate

NutraSweet/Aspartame

Malted barley flour

Glutamate

Hydrolyzed protein

Malt extract

Natural flavor(s)

Spice(s)

Smoke flavoring(s)

Guar gum

Seasoned salt

Malted anything

 

Please check out this excellent page http://www.sota.com/files/pdf/life_excitotoxins.pdf for a complete list of these very addicting additives, as well as specific foods they’re found in, along with more detailed information on excitotoxins.

Most of our experiences in life, both good and bad, are connected to food. Unfortunately, food can have a numbing effect on us. When we eat a large meal of difficult to digest or unhealthy foods, our bodies go through a rigorous process to digest it which slows all other bodily processes and mechanisms down. For this reason, it’s become a common habit for many to use food for comfort during difficult times, or simply to avoid the mundane. It’s much easier to indulge in a pint of ice cream than it is to tackle the clutter piling up on the dining room table.

When life becomes painful, some people, instead of processing their emotions and working through it, turn to food for comfort. Dr. Graham says “As one lightens the digestive load by switching to raw foods, the body suddenly has more nerve energy to conduct emotions, and emotions suppressed over the years begin to emerge. This unexpected challenge proves overwhelming for many people. Until people learn to properly deal with their emotional baggage, it is likely that eating raw foods will allow uncomfortable emotions to surface. They will find themselves going back to cooked foods for the emotional “comfort” that they bring.”

When we remove cooked foods, in order to not deal with the emotions, the body and mind do everything to try to convince us to put those foods back into our systems, much like a strong desire for nicotine when a person tries to give up smoking. You may have already experienced the desperate efforts of the body when you tried to go 100% raw for the first time. However, if we can work through our emotions and allow our bodies to detoxify and release those foods and additives, we’ll no longer crave them.

Below is an excerpt from the freedomyou.com website about sodium which gives another really good example of why the body reacts with such strong impulses:

“When you eat salty foods, the body has to compensate to maintain homeostasis. If you eat salty foods for a long period of time, as with caffeine, heroin and nicotine, the body becomes dependent on salt to maintain balance. Therefore reducing salt intake can create physical withdrawal.”  …In the form of serious cravings, like potato chips (salt) and chocolate (caffeine).

Definitely reaching for a calorie rich fruit when a craving hits is a great way to get past it. I personally find if I meet or exceed my caloric needs everyday with lots of sweet, delicious fruit, I don’t have any cravings. Also, if you’re craving something salty, it often means you’re low on minerals and need to eat more greens. You should make sure you’re eating a good variety of greens on a regular basis and this will help with cooked food cravings as well. This is where the more savory raw dishes come in handy too.

Looking at this as a journey is the right way to go. It’s very wise to be patient and give yourself room to breathe and grow. Acceptance will surely pave the way for a much smoother ride.

It’s a very strange feeling once we finally let go of cooked food. I feel it’s very similar to letting go of a wonderful, long term relationship that was really good while it lasted but is no longer serving you. Everything about that person is great but your interests and goals in life have changed and staying would only hold you back. You still think about that person and sometimes wish you could spend more time with them but you know it would only complicate things. That’s how I felt in the beginning, letting go of cooked food. But like the relationship, I eventually got over it.

You absolutely have the right attitude regarding your diet. After having some cooked food, you recognize that you’d prefer not to do that and start fresh right where you left off. No regrets. This is a process, one that’s different for everyone, but if we just pick up the pieces and learn from our experiences, things can only get better. Take it one day at a time, one meal at a time and eventually, when you’re ready, it all falls into place.