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Does the way we are brought up change our food cravings?

Food cravings are something that all of us can relate to, especially on these dreary winter days. That longing desire for a something warm and hearty on a cold day, or something sweet when you are feeling like an energy boost is normal. Sometimes we may tell ourselves that we shouldn’t have it. Alternatively, we might tell ourselves that we should have it because we deserve it.

If we delve deeper into the reasons behind these cravings, it becomes clear that food cravings and feeling out of control around ‘treat’ foods can often originate from our relationship with food growing up.

Do you remember eating crumpets with your dad or eating your favourite Christmas pudding made by a grandmother? Those warm and comforting foods release mood boosting endorphins and we consciously or subconsciously associate these with our childhood.

A research team from University of Rochester, New York, conducted a modified version of the age-old ‘Marshmallow test’. In this study, 28 children were split into two groups. In one group, the children were manipulated to mistrust the researchers and believe they were being lied to. In the other group, the children were led to have complete trust in the researchers. Each child was then given a marshmallow and told they could either have it now, or if they could wait 15 minutes before eating it, they would also be allowed a second marshmallow.

Unsurprisingly, the children who had trust in the researchers were able to show self-control over the marshmallow. On the other hand, if they did not trust the researchers, they were more likely to eat the marshmallow straight away.  

How does this relate to food cravings? If we tell ourselves that we can have ‘treat foods’ anytime and we trust that these foods will still be available tomorrow, the next day, and the next, we will be more likely to have self-control over these foods.

So, if we give ourselves permission to listen to our food desires and have ‘treats’ when these cravings arise we may find our cravings diminish.

Read more about the research paper here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2219052/Scientists-test-trust-affects-ability-young-children-resist-temptation--promising-marshmallows.html

Main author Millie Keown - student dietitian