Sugar addict: According to research cravings can be particularly strong if sweet treats were used as a reward in childhood
There’s nothing more frustrating if you are trying to lose weight than finding yourself unwittingly lured to the biscuit tin, the fridge or the larder at the mercy of an impossible-to-resist food craving.
In just a few moments, all those carefully counted calories and hours in the gym can be instantly neutralised by an unfathomable compulsion for something sweet, creamy, salty, delicious, but definitely bad for you.
For years scientists have struggled to explain how cravings can defy logic and nutrition, yet cause perfectly sane and healthy people to gorge themselves on junk food.
Only last week, researchers at Yale University came closer to an answer with a study that identified a weakness in the brains of obese people that makes them less able than slim people to stop themselves eating high-calorie foods, particularly when hungry. But that doesn’t explain where the cravings come from in the first place, or why we’re all prone to them.
Now, however, one psychotherapist believes she may have the answer.
After years of working as a counsellor to drink and drug addicts, Dr Dorothy Virtue noticed strong similarities between their cravings for a ‘fix’ and her own out-of-control cravings for ice cream and bread.
She realised that both could very often be a way of covering-up or trying (unsuccessfully) to deal with deep-seated emotional issues. She made some changes to her life and the cravings stopped: ‘When I finally listened to my gut, instead of smothering it with food, my life radically shifted,’ she says.
'I transformed myself from a fat, unhappy woman with little money or romance in her life, into a trim-figured psychotherapist rich in friendship, love, and financial success.’
Dr Virtue switched her specialism to the study of eating disorders and food cravings and, through on-going investigations, found strong correlations between certain food types and specific emotional issues.
She believes food cravings are as natural and predictable as a startled reaction to a sudden loud noise, and her work centres on the belief that psychological issues such as stress, anger, anxiety and shame drive us to crave either sweet, crunchy, chewy or creamy foods.
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