The Ubiquity of Cravings

Childhood Obesity News often mentions something that Dr. Pretlow has verified but few people really grasp. Kids don’t need more nutrition information. They mainly need training and encouragement in how to control food cravings.

Dr. Pretlow is far from alone in prioritizing the importance of cravings control. Neuropsychiatrist Daniel Amen, M.D., has been offering the list, “9 Ways to Conquer Your Cravings,” to the public for years.

It is still possible to find older versions of this plan online, which make it evident that Dr. Amen has expanded and refined his recommendations over time. The strategies he suggests are briefly summarized here:

Keep your blood sugar balanced.

Decrease the artificial sweeteners […] because they are up to 600 times sweeter than sugar, they may activate the appetite centers of the brain making you crave even more food and more sugar.

Manage your stress.

Outsmart sneaky triggers.

Find out about hidden food allergies.

Practice willpower to retrain your brain.

Get moving.

Get adequate sleep… An expanding body of scientific evidence has shown that the less sleep you get, the more cravings you have.

Take natural supplements for craving control.

Of course all these actions can play a part, but let’s expand on a few of them. Why is balanced blood sugar at the top of the list? Because when the blood sugar level is low, a person is quite likely to feel anxious, irritable, and, worst of all, hungry. The consequence, not surprisingly, is that the person will probably eat.

If the person eats refined carbohydrates and simple sugars, the blood sugar goes up, and then drops, starting a new cycle of anxiety, irritability, and hunger. If the person eats foods that are high in fat and sugar, the addiction-prone parts of the brain become involved.

None of this is good. What can help? Eating a nutritious breakfast, and smaller meals throughout the day.

Stress and Motion

In the field of obesity, stress has been a frequent topic, for an excellent reason. Dr. Amen mentions increased appetite, cravings for sugar and fat, low energy, poor concentration, high cholesterol levels, heart disease, hypertension, increased stroke risk, diabetes, osteoporosis, and anxiety. The psychological condition of anxiety, so often paired with depression, shows up whenever the root causes of cravings are discussed.

Movement is perhaps the most under-recognized preventative measure against an extensive list of ills. People tend to mischaracterize exercise as strenuous activity that has to be done in special clothes in a specialized setting. On the contrary, multiple benefits are obtained from exercise as gentle as a regular morning tai chi routine done by a nonagenarian. The movement is the important thing, keeping the joints supple and the blood circulating.

Check out Neila Rey’s “50 Reasons to Exercise” and view the list through the lens of cravings prevention. A case can be made for every item as contributing to the reduction of food cravings, and that’s not all. Dr. Amen says, “Scientific research has found that physical activity can cut cravings whether you crave sugary snacks or things like cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs.”


In the science of cravings, one of the more fascinating aspects is the relationship between allergy, addiction, and obesity. Dr. Amen asserts that “hidden food allergies and food sensitivities can trigger cravings,” and adds:

One of the things that might surprise you about hidden food allergies is that the foods you are allergic to are often the ones you crave the most.

He cites the examples of wheat and dairy products, where an allergic reaction can reduce the brain’s blood supply and the result is poor judgment, which often causes people to become slaves of their cravings. Allergic reactions can include not only anxiety and depression, but anger, headache, sleep problems, nasal congestion, bowel malfunction, joint and muscle aches, fatigue, memory issues, lack of concentration, and brain fog. Every one of those is stressful, and we know what stress leads to: cravings.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “9 Ways to Conquer Your Cravings,”, 2013
Photo credit: MidwayGlory via BY-ND

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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