What is it about sitting in front of the TV after an exhausting day that makes us want to reach for a bag of chips or dish out a bowl of ice cream?
The relationship between stress and cravings is complicated but unmistakable. The more we stress, the more we crave food, and it’s usually for foods that don’t do us any favors, healthwise.
Almost all of us have, at some point, experienced the vicious cycle of stress, craving, unhealthy eating, weight gain, and…more stress.
Why does this happen? Is it because we are “weak-willed,” lazy, or have poor self-control?
Extensive research shows that the stress-craving-weight gain cycle has less to do with willpower and more with physiological changes inside our bodies. These physical effects make cravings nearly impossible to resist.
In this discussion, we’re going to investigate:
- What is a craving
- Stress and cravings
- Hormones, cravings, and weight gain
- Battling Cravings Betr
Spoiler alert: It’s not your fault! So give yourself a break and read on!
Food Cravings: the what, why, and how
A food craving is an intense desire to eat a specific food, usually energy-dense sweet or savory foods. The tricky thing about cravings is that they affect many different components of our psychology and biology.
There is a behavioral and neurochemical component. Cravings are partially related to learned habits and chemical signaling in our brain that tells us an action is “rewarding.”
It’s also important to point out that there’s a difference between cravings and hunger. Hunger is a physical sensation we experience when we need to eat for energy. You don’t need a specific food to satisfy hunger, whereas craving is usually for “highly-palatable” foods like chocolate, chips, fast food, etc.
So far, it seems like cravings are all in your head, right?
A whole series of hormones cause physical changes in your body that result in cravings and cause us to gain and hold onto excess fat.
Where does this hormone cycle start?
Cravings aren’t a result of having “low self-control.” Cravings are caused by hormonal shifts that occur during chronic stress.
Stress, Cravings, and Weight-gain
Alright, there is SOME emotional and psychological component to cravings.
We often crave high-calorie food during stressful events. Craveable foods taste good, fill our bellies, and are easy to digest. These characteristics activate the pleasure centers in our brains and increase positive emotions.
But cravings really hook us through their effects on our hormones.
Cortisol is the hormonal culprit that starts it all.
The adrenal glands release cortisol which keeps our energy levels high to face a stressful “threat.”
Part of cortisol’s effect is on hormones associated with blood sugar balance, appetite regulation, and fat storage: insulin, leptin, and ghrelin.
Cortisol decreases levels of insulin and leptin, which tell your body that you’re full and it’s time to store energy.
Cortisol also increases ghrelin, which signals your body to eat.
That’s what’s supposed to happen in a normal stress response. The problem occurs, though, when stress doesn’t go away.
That’s when the wheels come off.
Cortisol causes cravings by altering hormones that regulate appetite, and ongoing stress results in weight gain by interfering with the hormones that regulate blood sugar and fat storage.
The Chronic Stress Breakdown
Under chronic stress, the delicate dance of hormones described above turns into a mosh pit.
But when cortisol stays elevated for a long time, all of the hormones affected have to fight to get back in balance.
This fight causes hormone levels to spike outside normal ranges, creating more imbalances.
Eventually, the cells that produce insulin and leptin respond to cortisol blocking those hormones’ action. Your body releases more insulin and leptin to compensate, but cortisol keeps blocking their effects, leading to insulin and leptin resistance.
When you are in a state of insulin resistance, it’s bad news.
Insulin has two main jobs. First, insulin signals the cells in your body to use up blood sugar. Second, insulin triggers fat cells to store extra blood sugar for later use.
When your cells are insulin resistant, they don’t use blood sugar as fast. The blood sugar that isn’t used up triggers further insulin release.
On top of this, the blood sugar you don’t use (because of insulin resistance) is stored as fat.
And ON TOP OF THIS, cortisol and ghrelin are causing cravings for high-calorie foods, which usually means high sugar.
So while insulin’s ability to process blood sugar is impaired, cortisol and ghrelin are telling your body that you need more.
And just one more thing…this whole cycle causes MORE stress and MORE inflammation, which causes further hormone imbalance.
Chronic stress causes an ongoing cycle of inflammation and hormonal imbalance that results in cravings, dysregulated blood sugar, increased fat storage, and ultimately, inflammation and chronic disease.
4 Ways that Betr Crushes Cravings
On top of everything else, the current logic behind overcoming weight gain and poor blood sugar just exacerbates the central problem.
Telling an already discouraged, unhealthy person to “move more, eat less” results in MORE stress.
This leaves us feeling discouraged, defeated, and more unhealthy than ever.
But there’s a Betr way.
Betr is struggle-free, effective, and fights the problem of stress and weight gain at the source.
1. We let you off the hook!
One of Betr’s essential sayings is, “it’s not your fault.” And this article explains why that mantra is true. We are under chronic chemical, physical, and emotional stress, which causes changes in our bodies that lead to cravings, weight gain, bad sleep, and overall poor health.
And the solutions we’re offered: medication, starvation diets, punishing exercise, are just making the problem worse.
Betr isn’t a diet. We give your body and your mind a break to finally allow you to heal.
2. Gut-Healing Glory
Beyond the emotional challenges of trying to wrestle back our health, there’s a genuine physical issue. This issue is one that modern medicine and most diets, exercise, and weight loss plans are only beginning to address.
That’s the importance of gut health to our overall health, and this is something Betr has recognized for years.
The beneficial bacteria in our gut (called our microbiome) play a significant role when it comes specifically to stress, cravings, and weight gain. They’re responsible for producing and regulating all hormones in the stress-craving-weight gain cycle.
A healthy gut microbiome helps produce balanced levels of all the hormones responsible for regulating blood sugar, mood, sleep, and appetite. Our beneficial gut bacteria also help fight inflammation that can cause physical damage to our bodies and put us in states of chronic stress.
If you’re looking for a deeper dive into the connection between gut health and weight loss, check out The Skinny on Gut Health on the Betr Blog!
3. Using Food as Medicine
How do we get to that “healthy gut,” you may ask?
Betr doesn’t heal your gut through deprivation or exhausting workouts. We nourish your microbiome with gut-healthy, delicious, nutritious foods.
We give the gut what it needs to thrive. One of our big focuses is healthy fiber, which regulates blood sugar, reduces cravings, and produces beneficial metabolites to fight stress and inflammation.
We are a CDC-certified diabetes prevention program because one of the most profound effects of the Betr protocol is reducing blood sugar and regulating insulin. Our program directly addresses the cycle of chronic stress, cravings, and weight gain that we’ve been describing.
4. Listening to Your Body
Betr teaches our members how to listen to their bodies. Our protocol eliminates foods that interfere with healthy functioning. Removing them gives your body a chance to heal. Then, you can add them back in slowly to identify which foods affect you negatively.
Once you’ve learned how to listen to your body and figure out what foods work for you, you can develop a long-term, sustainable, healthy way of eating.
When you learn to listen to your body, you don’t need to feel guilty when occasionally “indulging” in high-sugar, crave-able foods. You’ll have the skills to incorporate these without getting thrown back into the stress-craving-weight gain cycle.
And, if those foods cause discomfort, stress, or weight gain, you already know how to get back on track in just a few days!
Many of our members report that their cravings have come full circle. Now they crave gut-healthy, delicious foods that fuel their body rather than the energy-dense, highly-processed foods they used to crave!
Betr is a science-backed, easy, effective program that reduces cravings by addressing their true source: stress, inflammation, and diet.
Summarizing the Stress Cycle
Our environment is a toxic soup of stressors that lead to chronic stress, cravings, weight gain, and poor health.
The cycle of chronic stress interferes with our metabolism, resulting in out-of-control blood sugar levels, increased fat storage, inflammation, and even MORE stress!
Betr uses food as medicine to heal the gut to support healthy blood sugar, the production of mood and energy-boosting neurochemicals, unlock energy from fat, and arrest the cycle that results in unhealthy cravings.
Following our gut-healing protocol, you can lose weight, reverse chronic disease, and improve energy, mood, and sleep.
Want to know more about how Betr can fight chronic stress? Sign up for our Intro to Betr call and get “how, when, and why” behind how Betr is changing lives without struggling to use delicious food.
It really can be struggle-free! Sign up for our Intro to Betr call to find out how.
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