Win the Game Against Hunger!


What is it about going to the movies that makes us abandon our healthy lifestyle? Or wait, is that just me?

The block buster movie, The Hunger Games had many of us many racing to the theater with friends and ordering up true movie fare like buttered popcorn, a box of candy, and an oversized soda to wash it all down.  

Ironically, the Hunger Games movie made me think about the games and trickery that hunger plays in our daily lives.  Why do we crave certain foods, like salty popcorn, and M & M’s, and once you start why can’t you stop? 

A recent article in Healthy Living Magazine, author Roxanne Suko, MD, medical director of Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Enterprise, breaks down cravings, addictions, stress, and solutions, Dr. Sukol shared, “Sugar doesn’t nourish; it entertains.” Wow, that’s worth a sticky note on your computer!

Those foods we want are highly processed containing high amounts of fats, sugars, and sodium. These manufactured calories are quite different from wholesome calories that come from foods like; brown rice, broccoli, milk, and hummus.  “When we eat things that don’t nourish us, we stay hungry” says Sukol.  Again, WOW!

Additionally, she points out that sugar is the strongest stimulator of cravings.  They stimulate certain brain neurotransmitters like dopamine, enhancing pleasure and well-being meanwhile serotonin comforts, providing a sense of security, relaxes, and can reduce pain like; anxiety and depression.   According to research conducted by Sukol, feeling stressed out results in a drop in the serotonin and that’s when highly processed sugar, salt, and fat foods step in to stimulate that serotonin.  In addition to sugar, manufactured fats are also involved in stimulating your brain to want more

One’s strong desire for salt sky rockets when fat enters the picture.  Fat plus salt creates crunch (e.g., crackers, chips), and that crunch can feel irresistible.
Turns out that food we crave is changing our brain chemistry so we are drawn to eat more and more of it! 

One last word on cravings and overeating that can’t be overlooked is the connection to stress.  When the gap between feeling comfortable (less stress) and uncomfortable (stress) widens, the greater the likelihood that food can and will swoop in to save the moment.  Nourishing your mind, body, and soul with wholesome foods may help elevate good feelings and a more positive outlook which can help to reduce stressors.  Along with a balanced diet of whole-rich foods, regular physical activity is yet another effective strategy to stabilizing mood and reducing stress.  Engage in consistent physical exercise that you actually enjoy and that can clear your head of hunger.  
If hunger is going to play games with your head, be prepared to WIN.