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Karen's Blogs

Blogs are brief, to-the-point, conversational and packed with information, strategies, and tips to turn troubled eaters into “normal” eaters and to help you enjoy a happier, healthier life.Sign up by clicking "Subscribe" below and they’ll arrive in your inbox. 

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Craving Sweets After a Meal

If you crave sweets after a meal, you’re not stuck in some kind of rut, but reacting to human biology. Perhaps understanding this process will help you be less hard on yourself about your cravings. And perhaps it will help you better manage your appetite.

According to Dr. Louis J. Aronne, director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Program (boy, do I hate the name of that program) at New York-Presbyterian/Weill

Cornell Medical Center, “The craving for sweets is primarily biological. However, the sweet that is preferred seems to be primarily a learned behavior, a function of one’s upbringing.” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 10/29/13).

Apparently, cravings, for example for specific nutrients such as carbohydrates, come from our bodies’ need to “alter our neurotransmitters in conditions like eating disorders and obesity.” Remember that it’s carbs that trigger a boost of dopamine—the feel-good neurotransmitter—in our brains. Here are some other interesting research conclusions from the article:

  • Cravings may change according to the content of the meal you’ve eaten. For instance, eating foods rich in protein possibly may generate a desire for sweets.
  • “Women report more craving for sweets than men, who favor “savory” products, like chips, that are salty, fatty and starchy.” (author note: they mean than men do; not that women crave sweets more than men!)
  • “Sweet craving is more common in families where alcoholism occurs. That could be more evidence of its physiological and genetic basis.” In fact, narcotic blockers have proven helpful in reducing sweets as well as drug cravings.
  • “Women in Western countries prefer chocolate. However, women in countries where they don’t have chocolate prefer other types of sweets.”

So, in sum, if you crave sweets after a meal, you’re not crazy, especially if that meal contained lots of protein. If the craving feels strong, it’s because it’s not all in your head, but, in part, biologically based. That said, even physical urges can be resisted. After all, you don’t sexually attack everyone you’re physically attracted to and most of us, barring certain medical issues, can control our bladders. Urges, even for sweets, are only a small part of our biology. Remember that you can use the rest of your brain to decide what to do with a craving. This may be a new concept for some of you, that is, to know that you don’t have to act on every appetite urge that comes along.

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