Are you sure you are ready and have enough time right now for this step? If not, just click the button below to go back to the safety and comfort of the last step or click here for more help.
If you are sure that you want to move on and feel 100% confident that you have learned and mastered the last step, then read on!
Now that you have learned how the habit loop works and have practiced the process of changing your own habit loops, it’s time to learn about the mechanics of cravings.
Because understanding how your craving mechanism works will help you become the master of it – using your habit loop skills – which will allow you to take back the control!
It’s actually quite simple when it’s broken down into these 7 parts:
- Macronutrient composition
- Salivary response
- Satiety types
Sensation includes what it takes like (salty, sweet, bitter, etc.), what it smells like, and how it feels in your mouth. Food companies spend millions of dollars to discover the most satisfying sensation experiences in order to increase profits. They also know the perfect combination of salt, fat and sugar, known as the “bliss point,” where all sensations come together, forming a spike of pleasure in the brain.
Macronutrient composition is the ratio of the three main types of calories: protein, carbohydrates and fats. Food companies know how to tweak this calorie ratio to make you feel satisfied for only a short period of time (or not at all), so you keep eating their product, beyond the amount your body would normally eat without this manipulation. That way, they get to sell you more food because you’re eating too much of it.
Salivary response is part of the automatic nervous system, so it speaks loudly to the subconscious (toddler) brain. The more food causes you to salivate, the more the flavors will be mixed throughout your mouth and cover all the different areas of your tongue, maximizing taste bud contact and the variety of flavors. Since this is an automatic response and involves an emotional experience, you can see how it can go straight to the toddler brain and be programmed as an important part of the addiction process quickly, efficiently and effectively.
Mouthfeel relates to dynamic contrast, texture, meltability and more. One example of dynamic contrast would be a crunchy shell with a soft, creamy center, like Kit Kat candy bars and Oreo cookies. The brain thinks this is a blast because it’s a new, novel and unnatural manufactured experience, brought to us by the processed food industry. Texture is also important to most people. If you find that to be true with you, then you probably enjoy other sensations too and with food, you might find it hard to stop eating something that is providing you enjoyable sensations. Meltability relates to how fast a food melts or disintegrates in your mouth. This quality can also trick the brain into thinking it’s not eating very much food, as in the case of foods like cheese puffs, which virtually disappear as they’re being chewed. The brain processes this as less food, so the calories consumed have a harder time registering with the satiety system. This makes it extremely easy to overeat those foods, and as far as the food manufacturers are concerned, that’s the point, because then they get to sell you more.
Adaptation happens over time if you experience the same taste and mouthfeel repeatedly. Your brain gets bored with the same food experience if repeated too often, causing pleasure to decrease. This is why most people like variety. Food manufacturers have learned how to bypass this however, with clever manipulation of these eight components listed above and discussed here. In nature, though, adaptation helps us to create variety in the foods we eat, so we receive a well-balanced nutrient composition through all the different seasons.
Satiety types such as calorie density, nutrient density, fiber, protein, fat, etc. and all their different combinations represent unique ways your brain is signaled to stop eating. Food manufacturers make sure that their “foods” (especially junk foods) are formulated in such a way that it takes a long time to feel full from them so you eat more in one sitting and your hunger returns in a short period of time, sending you back for more.
Anchors are memories and associations you have made with food. This might have come from your parents who gave you food for comfort, or from observing others who ate food as a coping mechanism, as just two examples. It also involves experiences you have had in the past that were particularly emotional (good or bad) which, as you know, programs your toddler brain quickly and effectively. The food itself can even create an experience your toddler can anchor to. Food manufacturers know how to maximize the emotional experience using all the parts above, so your brain associates that feeling or emotion. Then the next time you smell that food or even see a picture of it, your brain remembers that experience and wants to repeat it.
“OK, I get it. Now what?”
Glad you asked!
Remember when you called out your habit loops and gave them names, taking their power away? Simply do the same exercise here! Use the questions below to help with that and more:
- Which craving mechanism(s) are operating here?
- What name can I call it/them? (Examples might be “Happy hour anchor” for social eating, or “Mindy Mouthfeel,” etc.)
- Is this mechanism also a trigger? (And it often is)
- Am I truly physically hungry? (Which brings us to the next step – but not until you have mastered this one!) 😉