women

Tummy Talk—What Your Cravings Tell You

Now it’s time for some tummy talk, straight from the gut. I’m sure you have heard your tummy grumbling, “give me chocolate, pizza, ice cream,” or whatever you are craving. Your cravings and what you eat say a lot about your character, your personality, and where you are from. They can reflect family history, culture, and religious background, economic status, how you feel, where you go, and what you do socially.

Ethnic Influences

Eating and choosing foods is no longer just about nutrition and feeding your body what it needs and what tastes good. Your ethnic background is often apparent in the foods you eat. Food practices are different from culture to culture and from generation to generation. Whether your background is European or African, Asian or Latin American, these influences contribute to the foods you eat and bring into your home. I’m 100 percent Polish, and craving kielbasa (Polish sausage) is definitely tied to warm, fuzzy memories of my beautiful mom preparing dinner for dad and us eight kids. Jeez—I can actually smell it as I’m writing this. There are many foods we crave because of ethnic influences.

Religious Influences

Religious groups like Muslims, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Jews also can influence individual food and beverage dietary practices. Muslims are known to fast at certain times during the calendar year; many Seventh-Day Adventists follow strict vegetarian practices and avoid alcohol, coffee, and tea; and some Jews observe kosher dietary laws. People of these, and other, backgrounds may be very strict or somewhat lenient with their followings. I’m Catholic and hardly ever eat meat. It’s funny but the only time I really crave it is during our religious season of Lent when we are supposed to fast. It figures!

Regional Influences

America has its own collection of favorite flavors. Each region is known for its distinct types of foods. The wide number of ethnic heritages, national resources, and diverse types of people found throughout these regions largely contributes to these preferences.

The South originated foods like hush puppies and cheese grits. The Southwest is known for its Mexican American foods. The Northeast is famous for its supply of seafood and fresh fish, and the West Coast, with its warm weather and trendy lifestyle, is where you can often find fresh foods and Asian/Pacific foods.

Social Influences

Our social existence is probably one of the biggest contributors to what we eat. The people you live with, work with, and socialize with have a great deal of influence over your diet. Friends, peers, and colleagues may try to make your food choices for you during a coffee break or at lunch. “Let’s grab a latte and doughnut,” or “How about a burger and fries for lunch today?” Uh oh! There goes that tummy again, talking to you through your cravings. Sometimes your brain has to tell it to shush. If you are a teenager it’s common to eat like your friends and peers. They might choose foods like pizza, French fries, hot dogs, shakes, and soft drinks. Your tummy may tell you to choose these foods because they look good and everyone else is eating them. On the other hand your peers might choose to starve themselves in order to “trim down.” Don’t let that unhealthy tummy talk take you to a negative place.

Live

  YOUR Life

Frequent television watchers are more likely to “feel” fatter than their non-watching counterparts, often due to the images that models and celebrities portray. Snacking during commercials doesn’t help either.

People eat for reasons other than hunger. It could be because it’s time to eat, because others are eating, or even because the food is there—it looks good and smells good. People are often labeled by the type of eater they are—a slow eater, fast eater, or a person who never eats sweets. Some people respond to environmental cues, such as an event or situation that triggers eating. The sight, smell, or familiar taste of a food can be a cue to stimulate eating. Social events, like parties, mealtimes, and watching television or going to the movies all serve as eating triggers, too.

Family Influences

Your family’s eating and purchasing decisions provide the greatest input into your current food habits. How your parents fed you—what foods were brought into the home, how you celebrated special occasions, and so on—led to the way that you eat. These environmental factors probably have the largest impact on your overall food decisions today.

Cyndi’s Secrets

A craving is a strong desire to eat a particular food. Women often desire chocolate as hormone levels change. Satisfy the urge with a single decadent chocolate miniature. Savor it! Of course, do not eat the entire box.

Modern families are different and more widely diverse than ever before. We see many more single-parent households, many homes with two working parents, and various non-family individuals living together. Busy schedules also reflect on eating decisions. The majority of our meals are no longer prepared from scratch and over a stove. Many nights go by without a hot meal being prepared in the home at all. The frequency of restaurant dining, fast food, and convenience dinners has eclipsed more traditional meals. Of course, who could live without our friend the microwave? It has now become the favored kitchen appliance—heat it up in minutes. Activities and family schedules now take priority over home-cooked meals.

Cravings

Cravings also lead a person to eat. A craving is defined as a strong desire to eat a particular food. That is when your tummy is talking extra loud to you. It can scream, “feed me!” any time of the day or night. Hormones can really pump up the volume of tummy chatter, particularly in women, as observed during pregnancy and episodes of premenstrual syndrome. Dieters are also known to have frequent food cravings primarily because of the intense desire to eat too many so-called forbidden foods. You can calm the chatter by selecting healthier choices and just a “few” of those forbidden favorites.

Emotions

He dumped me! She fired me! I broke a nail! Well, better bring out the ice cream, pizza, chocolate, or beer. Unfortunately, it is way too easy to use food in more ways than to just meet hunger and nourish the body. Many people express their emotions, like love or sorrow, with food. Food tends to make some people feel better. That’s why emotional food cravings are often called, “mommy food.” This misuse of food acts as a false nurturing comfort. It fills an emotional void (as in the case of depression or loneliness).

Mixed Media Messages—Yikes!

Television, magazine, and newspaper ads are often a big factor in our purchasing and eating decisions. Coupons, store displays, tasting stations, and placement of a product on the grocery store shelf also encourage buyers to purchase it. The Internet is swarming with pop-ups. Nowadays you can’t even watch a movie or a TV show without seeing an actor walk by eating or holding some edible item. Of course, the name brand is conveniently visible and on the screen just long enough to stick in your mind. Companies pay huge bucks for this subliminal product placement. They are determined to influence your decisions in any way possible and through every media outlet. The more you see and read about a new product, the more likely you will be to try it. This is not entirely bad. It is up to you to take responsibility and be a savvy consumer.

WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW CAN MAKE YOU FAT

More than half of all food-related commercial advertisements are geared toward foods high in calories, fat, sugar, or salt.

Media madness is not going away any time soon. Its effect on eating behaviors is enormous and can be both good and bad. Not only are some foods advertised as the healthiest and newest variety available, but other “not-so-healthy” choices frequently pop up, too. The media also overvalues beauty as exemplified in slim and trim bodies. Many celebrities and models present these products to us. If they are a healthy weight it is only natural to appreciate their size and shape and become seduced to buy their product. I’m pleased that a few more companies are using real-size people, but that doesn’t guarantee a healthy product. I’ve also noticed a disturbing psychological trend in some advertising. We are seeing healthy weight individuals in some ads portrayed as if they are heavy. For example I recently watched a popular cereal commercial where a very attractive woman was featured who had a healthy weight. She looked in the mirror at her body with disdain desperately hoping to lose weight. The cereal was, of course, her answer to losing pounds she didn’t need to lose. I was appalled by this kind of consumer mind game. Watching this nonsense could surely make a healthy woman think she was “fat” by this media standard.

Commercials like these air everyday on television. In fact, you are bombarded by positive and negative influences all the time. So the next time you see these influences coming on, stop and try to make a decision for yourself. Is that what you really want to eat, or are you just trying to “fit in” with others? I feel strongly about taking responsibility. In order to move forward, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you often agree to eat something just to go along with the crowd?
  • Do others often make food decisions for you?
  • Do you often buy something just because of an advertisement or television commercial, even if you know it’s not the best choice?
  • Do you tend to join friends for a meal, even if you don’t care for the restaurant, just to be part of the group?
  • Do you order foods you know your friends will like, just to have them like you better?

If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, then you need to become more aware of who is in control of your food decisions. Becoming aware of the influences that surround you is just one way you can begin to control your food intake and your overall health as well.

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