I've been thinking about the ways different people in the paleo community experience cravings and "forbidden" desires differently (including this discussion and this discussion on paleohacks). I think I've found a good way to categorize the different kinds of craving (and who doesn't love categorizing?). In every case in which you want something that you also feel you shouldn't, there is i. the immediate, felt desire, and also ii. the look to the future or to what you should do, which does battle with the desire. You can think of the look to the future as a concern to avoid a future unpleasantness. With this in mind, here is my list:
You want something bad (crappy carbs, sugar) right now, but you know that in a week or so you will weigh more or be less healthy in some other global sense. [Unpleasantness comes a week later.] This is the only way non-paleos diet, I think.
You want something right now, but you know that you'll get the "carb flu" (see here) or the "gluten nasties." [Unpleasantness within an hour or so, could last for several days.]
You want something right now, but once you taste it you realize that you don't actually like the taste of sugar anymore. You have accomplished a significant degree of paleo acculturation. [Unpleasantness with the first bite.]
You don't really want something that's on the table in front of you, but you feel pain about it, because you grew up eating it, and you wish you could want it. [Unpleasantness after the thought, but no bite takes place.]
You don't want anything sugary at all. You wonder why other people consider it food. [Unpleasantness never comes to pass.]
Using this categorization system (if there isn't anything to add or revise, that is), where do you place yourself? Do you find yourself at one number on some days, and at another number on other days (because of mood or sleep or exercise)? Did you used to be at one number and have since moved to another?
But I might be most curious about something I hinted at above. I think when most people think of "dieting," they think that this means they will have to be constantly exercising their wills to keep themselves from the things they want in the heat of the moment. But it seems like we paleos know we can avoid this situation -- we don't think we're going to have to struggle with our desires for the rest of our lives. But can we get rid of this entirely? I.e., is it possible to make it all the way to five? Possible for everyone? (Is it even desirable for everyone?) If not everyone can make it to five is it because some of us have addiction problems with food (lots of good discussion on this here) and some of us don't? I would love to hear your thoughts, because I myself think about this quite a bit.
It's somewhat mental for me -- so I'm maybe around a 2 or 3? Here's what I mean:
A few weeks ago, I went to Dunkin Donuts for an iced coffee, black. Normally I'll get one and not even consider a donut, but on this particular day, my mind automatically latched onto the thought of a glazed sour cream donut. This is my all-time favorite donut; if I could have only one donut, it'd be this one. The pinnacle.
I'd been pretty militant about how I was eating, so it wasn't like I had to rationalize it much. I'd also been working out, and knew I would continue doing so -- hence I considered this donut a "flash in the pan." I ordered one with the coffee, and ate it as I drove.
What occurred after the second bite was nothing more than sheer disappointment. It wasn't that the donut was made poorly -- this was the de facto DD glazed sour cream. But my mind had a "picture" (and I include the taste in that quoted word) which my taste buds were now saying, "Nope, we aren't receiving that anymore." My body and mind were not as one on the opinion of this donut. Mind said it should be one way; Body told me it wasn't that good.
And with that, my craving disappeared. I haven't thought about a donut since.
I consider a cheat/reward like that a small price to pay to not want something like that anymore. Donuts go back throughout my childhood as a classic comfort food (my grandmother made fantastic old-fashioneds in her kitchen) and to no longer really want them...well, I'm content in moving on.
I consider the occasional craving an okay thing when it comes to situations like that.
Mostly at 5. Sometimes I want SOMETHING, but I don't know what it is. I think it's the ghost of my extreme carb craving past. Usually, I just eat something with a big glob of butter on it, or a square or two of 80% chocolate, and that usually takes care of wanting that SOMETHING. Most of all, I notice when I am craving food, I am really just hungry, and need to eat until my stomach is full, and then I'm happy, and I forget about food. Until it starts all over again. Ah, having a stomach. Priceless.
I think what happens to me sometimes is I remember in the old days when I was a carb addict and I hadn't eaten any for much of the day and then finally I ate some and got that feeling of pleasure that comes from feeding an addiction. The addiction made me need and crave the carbs to keep my metabolism happy, so when I ate those carbs, the addictive craving was fulfilled. Often, the carbs themselves do not taste particularly good. I guess most of us just convinced ourselves the pleasure came from taste, but of course it never did.
So sometimes now I remember how 'good' a plate of pasta 'tasted' and I miss that pleasure. I think it is just the memory of the pleasure and who does not like pleasure! But now that my metabolism is more balanced, if I eat a bit of pasta, I will no longer get that pleasure because my metabolism no longer requires it. So all I will experience is a blah taste but no rush of fulfillment of the addiction. Only if I eat a bunch of carbs for a day or so will I start to get the addiction cycle going again and only then could I get the pleasure of feeding the addiction. Either that or I could eat some cake and the addiction will start in about 5 seconds! There's something about cake that is totally my weakness! Even pie is not as dangerous as cake. -Eva
Good descriptions, I've gone from 1 to 4 and now vary between 2,3,5 depending on the food
Fructose "glutens" me
Wheat holds no desire at all(but would gluten me), even faux bread holds no desire, which is really odd because bread used to be my staple.The smell turns my stomach now. Odd, used to force salivation.
Sweet Flavors fail to appeal much anymore
I am at 4-5 with most carbs, like bread, pasta and the like. No appeal at all. In fact, when something's not there, I don't crave it much at all (one exception: every now and then I have major PMS-induced chocolate craving, that's so strong I am shocked by it. Only lasts a day though). My main problem is when some of my former favourite things - mainly potatoes - are right in front of me. Mash and fries are killers for me - if someone orders them for the table I can't hold out.Not sure if that's a craving as such, or just a failure of willpower.
I've seen some variation in this over time. While I was first transitioning to paleo, I was commonly at the 2-3 level. It was particularly bad when I was willpower-depleted, because I would begin to crave starch and/or sugar. Sometimes I would cheat and it would be fulfilling, but I paid the price later... and sometimes it just didn't taste very good or interesting, and the cravings died (although I still did not feel fulfilled).
After some major life transitions and switching to a high-fat version of the diet (impossible to tease apart the impact of each), I found that my cravings largely began to disappear. I stay at level 5 now the majority of the time: wheat products and any packaged goods don't resemble food anymore. If I have a craving for sweetness, well, coconut products or 90% chocolate taste sweet to me now. Occasionally I go from a 5 up to a 4, where I remember my blissfully ignorant days of devouring huge bowls of pasta and entire pizzas. Through introspection I seem to recall it tasting really good, but the reality never lives up to my memory...
I also concur with Samantha Moore's answer, I often have a craving for SOMETHING and I just can't figure out what it is. At those times my mind does wander to SAD fare briefly, but fortunately usually rejects it. In my experience, eating meat tends to satiate these indeterminate cravings best.
To note, simply being presented with a food "on the table in front of you" -- a smell/ visual stimulus will induce desire/ reward computations in 'normal' people (when compared to people who exhibit disordered eating patterns in neuroimaging) experiments. Desire/ reward computation (which predicates 'desire', I believe) is based on opportunity and experience. So there may be a better way to phrase this scale. But maybe this is the question you want to ask?
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