The average American has a complicated relationship with food. And science is increasingly highlighting the psychological aspect of overeating and, indeed, food addiction. One analysis published by MDPI found that Americans were increasing the amount of processed food they were eating as a direct result of stress. During COVID-19, perhaps the single most stressful period in recent memory, these cravings started to become out of control. And here in this blog, we will discuss how you can counter food cravings with nothing but your favorite scented candles.
Of course, the health impacts of binge eating junk food are serious. Heart and vascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and certain cancers flourish when carb cravings get out of control. However, fighting them effectively demands a real understanding of how food cravings work and why they happen. On the plus side, knowing exactly what makes the body tick will help find solutions to show it that processed food is unnecessary.
What are food cravings?
The sensation of having a food craving will be common to most people because it follows the same pattern as hunger. There’s an intense psychological desire for a certain flavor, and the body will feel hungry. There can be physical symptoms, too – some people with particularly bad cravings experience restlessness. When a certain emotional connection is built, a specific food may be targeted. Over time, particularly when in tandem with an eating disorder, these specific cravings become food rituals, according to one study published by Frontiers.
As you may be able to tell, food cravings are much more than just a masked physiological need. When it comes to cravings specifically, Medical News Today defines three key factors as being symptomatic of a craving:
- An intense desire for a specific food
- A feeling that the urge is uncontrollable
- The sensation of uncontrollable hunger until the food is eaten
Understanding this helps to outline the psychological reasoning behind emotional eating. Furthermore, it makes it easier to create plans to counter food cravings.
Counter food cravings with us
The simplest way to counter cravings for food is to stop them from occurring in the first place. That requires a little bit of self-analysis. What mood do you experience when a food craving comes on? Stopping and performing the on-the-spot analysis can help. Writing down:
- Your mood at that time
- Your stress level
- When you have most recently eaten can help to get to the bottom of the craving.
For many people, junk food cravings are related to stress or boredom. Identifying that can create a quick fix. It can be as simple as moving your mind towards something else – or engaging in active relaxation. For instance, by lighting a lavender-based candle and taking some deep breaths. Clearing your head can clear the craving.
For others, however, cravings can be more subtle. They can be related to smells, most obviously. Who hasn’t had a craving for their favorite cuisine when walking past a restaurant? However, when the cravings become problematic and more akin to symptoms of an eating disorder rather than an entirely reasonable desire for something tasty, it’s time to look a little more at whether triggers are at play.
The scent-craving connection
As Psychology Today rightly highlights, there is a strong connection between scents and moods. Just like the eyes and ears, the olfactory system is a complex extension of your brain. What you smell and how that can make you feel is a real phenomenon and one that needs to be respected. Indeed, the degradation of the ability to smell is often an early sign of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
At the same time, odors don’t come as ready-made memories. Instead, they are linked to memories in your life, specific times, and events that last long in the memory. It’s little wonder that food smells are so powerful, given the importance of food within every human culture. The smell of lemon and sugar might evoke memories of a grandparent’s cooking and, with that, innocent and happy times. It’s easy to see how food cravings develop, given the positive memories that craved food builds in mind.
For most people, this is easily identified and understood. Of course, you’re going to want a slice of cake when you have happy memories of it as a kid. There’s a reason many families have comfort foods and easy meals that have been passed down through generations. When something unknown triggers the craving, it requires another round of self-analysis to tackle properly.
Identifying the culprit to counter food cravings
Next time a craving hits, take it a step further than just noting your mood. Consider other factors, for instance:
- Colors in your immediate vicinity
- Your geographical location
- Your current activity
- Specific smells – even if not food-related
According to Healthline, building up a picture of your current circumstances will help identify the guilty trigger. Simple examples include a craving for popcorn at the movie theater – but what about the more obscure causes? Walking through a park full of red roses can trigger a food craving for strawberry-flavored ice cream just as easily as smelling the scent of those flowers. Even tangentially related memories can come together to sabotage a healthy eating plan – and this is where prevention comes in.
The power of candles and sugar cravings
Cravings are a psychological impetus – your mind thinking it absolutely needs a certain food in order to sate hunger. But, just as cravings trick your mind into thinking it needs that food, so can you trick your mind into thinking it’s had it. Scent is a fantastic way to go about this.
One of the simplest cravings to counter with candles is those experienced by people with a sweet tooth. Cakes, sugary candy, and ice cream are commonly combined with either fruity flavors or rich and creamy ones. You can counter the desire for a big pot of vanilla ice cream with a gently scented vanilla candle. Letting it burn over a long period of time will also help to mellow out the craving associated with vanilla. And make it more of a gentle experience as opposed to something that comes on quick and strong.
Similarly, even candles that are scented with espresso or fireside warmth will give the full experience of a coffee shop without needing to purchase one of their treats. Having the smell, there will build familiarity, uncouple the craving from the irrational mind, and help to soothe the brain when it experiences a craving. Alongside other healthy weight management methods, this can be a huge benefit to people who are challenged by their sugar cravings or junk food cravings.
The scientific road to counter food cravings
You can also consider using candles to completely remove hunger. This doesn’t mean somehow finding trash-scented candles but instead prioritizing certain neutral smells that are associated with reduced appetite. According to TheHealthy.com, there are a few key compounds that work to aid this effect.
One particularly pleasant scent is extra virgin olive oil. According to some studies, olive oil can simply provide a feeling of fullness from smelling it. Studies have shown that its aroma, when included in healthy food, can induce people to feel fuller than if they had no olive oil at all.
Also, consider green apples and bananas – in a candle, these will provide a fresh and zingy scent to the room. Again, studies have shown that this fruit pairing is helpful in countering sugar cravings by providing a greater sense of fullness than other fruits and snacks. The smell alone can trick the body into dodging its demand for extra calories.
For lovers of particularly spicy scents, try fennel – or any other licorice-scented compound. According to the West Coast Institute of Aromatherapy, fennel has long acted as a palate cleanser in Italian culture. It works as an appetite suppressant, too. The scent of fennel around the home, or perhaps anise-related scents, will bring a suppressing edge to the home and help you counter food cravings.
Fighting one craving is a huge victory – but there needs to be good work going on underneath to tackle the root cause of irrational behavior. Stress is a key factor, and right now, the country is experiencing a wave of mental health illnesses. According to the APA, 32% of Americans are experiencing levels of stress so high that they are beginning to be impacted in decision-making. That includes when coming to eating – if your ability to make good decisions is impaired, you are more likely to binge eat.
Taking a holistic view of your health and seeking to improve it will help to fight cravings. This is another area where candles can help. Candles infused with oils of lavender, bergamot, or sandalwood have proven mental health benefits. They induce a greater state of calm when burned and can contribute to a serene environment in the home. Thus, providing a foundation for improved eating habits and healthy living. Binge eating and sugar cravings can be defeated through long-term self-care.
Building pleasant memories
Not all cravings are necessarily bad. You might feel like you really want a certain type of food because it brings back good memories – and that’s good. As long as food intake is in moderation, it’s not harmful to build those pleasant memories in your head. It’s often the case that having a memory of a smell or food can be a nice experience – and give you an excuse to have a little something you love.
Building your home around candles that primarily give balance – for instance, through floral oils – will ensure you have a secure base on which to build your mental health and resilience. However, there’s no harm in associating scents with good times. That can mean having certain food cravings, but if, for example, a coffee-scented candle provides a gentle hint, there’s nothing wrong with that.
When to find help in countering food cravings
Of course, there are some underlying conditions that can create food cravings. Often, food cravings are generated by a lack of some vitamin or mineral in the body. The body is asking for more of that food by prioritizing food types it knows will be high in the missing ingredient. Looking at your diet and trying to eliminate any shortages – for instance, through a dietary supplement – can help to counter food cravings.
There are also a number of health conditions that can create food cravings. According to Harvard Health, these include:
- Hormonal imbalances, e.g., those caused by pregnancy
- Low blood sugar level
- Inadequate sleep
- The impact of other medications, particularly SSRIs
- Mineral deficiencies
If you ever have other symptoms associated with any of those conditions, it is important that you speak to a physician. You can do a lot for yourself by tackling cravings, but if a medical condition is causing them, you need to find out what it is. This is especially true if your cravings are having a greater impact on your life. He might suggest some otc appetite suppressants so you get fewer cravings.
Keeping up the fight
Cravings are a feature of mental health, so there’s no quick way to win against them. It requires hard work, dedication, and self-discipline. The fact that the results are often only seen down the line – in improved health, body shape, and self-confidence – can make it all the harder to stick to a decision to avoid certain foods.
Make your homework for you by using candles to counter food cravings, too. Every tool you can get will help in the challenge of facing down eating disorders and junk food cravings – even smell that evokes the taste of the food itself. It’s all about understanding exactly how the brain works, how it links together memories, the taste of food, and everything in between, and how that creates cravings. Candles touch every sense, and that makes them a fantastic tool.
Use candles to improve your overall mental health, and use them as a tool to take the edge off cravings. They can be a great source of inspiration and a genuinely effective way of providing respite from the overwhelming mental impacts of craving unhealthy junk food. Food cravings don’t need to be tackled on their own – support can be found in the most unusual of places, including the candles that burn away to provide the smells of your home.