Most people have good intentions when it comes to eating well, and some people even succeed at sticking to a resolution for a few months. However, at some point or another it seems that everybody succumbs to one of the greatest sabotage-artists out there in regards to food; I’m talking about cravings.

All of us have cravings from time to time – that normal and can help direct our behavior towards things we truly enjoy. Many people, however, have insatiable cravings that seem too powerful to control. I’m talking about “get between me and my candy bar (donut, double-mocha latte, chips, etc.) and I’ll kill you” cravings. These people, fueled by these intense desires, often feel helpless to stick with any kind of healthy eating program. This often leads to despair, hopelessness and a resignation to slink behind the façade of “that’s just how I am”, or “I can’t do anything about it”. But, you can.

How and why cravings occur can have several different origins, but almost all cravings result from an imbalance in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These chemicals help control many body functions, including appetite, body temperature regulation, mood, focus, concentration, memory, sleep, migraines, cravings, binging-behaviors and addictions. They have a very powerful effect on your behavior; thus, imbalances in these neurotransmitters can cause a whole host of problems, including insatiable cravings, binging-behaviors and addictions, even to food (see our 3-part series on Sugar Addictions for more information). The good news is that correcting any underlying neurotransmitter imbalances can take cravings from a 10 to a 2-3 on a scale of 1-10 within a matter of weeks.

Correcting neurotransmitter imbalances often starts with balancing your blood sugar. Eating protein and fat along with plant-based carbohydrates (i.e., vegetables and fruit) at every meal is a good place to start (for loads of recipe ideas, see the Optimal Body Balance blog). In particular, starting the day with some protein is often very helpful to stave off cravings later in the day.

Next, we have to get at each person’s specific neurotransmitter imbalances. This is accomplished by figuring out the exact blend of building blocks your body needs to make up for any imbalances and then taking them at specific times during the day. Determining exactly what you need requires professional guidance; however, once the cravings are under control, you will no longer need professional supervision. The best part is, many people see results within days or weeks of starting.

It is essential to address the underlying neurotransmitter imbalances present in cases of cravings, binging and any addictive-type behavior in order to be free of them.  No amount of will power can overcome an imbalance in brain chemistry over time; eventually, your willpower will weaken and you will give in. However, once your neurotransmitter function is optimized, you won’t need will power anymore; you will be free to make a conscious choice about what and when you eat, without guilt, despair or longing. You will be free.