That switch is powered in part by dopamine, a brain chemical linked to both drug addiction and food cravings. Studies suggest that once you experience something pleasurable, your brain produces dopamine, which makes you want to have more of the treat. Later, if you see or smell the food that gave you the high, you want it again.
As to whose advice you should follow, it really comes down to your "cravings personality" — how well you can spot danger and keep it from derailing your weight-loss goals. Are you someone who can satisfy your urges with just a little smidgen of brain delight — in the form of chocolate or Cheez-Its — or is having even just a taste inevitably the first step on the road to diet ruin?
To find out, follow the experts' "Give In" or "Give It Up" tips to help you stay in control. And don't be alarmed if you fall into the "give it up" group: We've found a way you can learn to eat your favorites again and still lose weight.
What's your craving personality? Take our quiz and find out!
1. A friend gives you a small box of exquisite chocolates. You count them and think, I can make these last for two weeks if I have one a day. Then you:
- a. Set aside a few minutes every evening to sit in your favorite chair and enjoy one piece of chocolate. It's a great two weeks.
- b. Eat one, then later in the day, another couple. The box lasts a week.
- c. Have one, then another...whoops, it's 10 minutes later and they're gone.
2. At the last big cookout, your hosts served all kinds of salty goodness in great big salad bowls. You:
- a. Scooped some guacamole onto a plate, counted out 15 chips, and really enjoyed them.
- b. Realized, after your third handful, that you'd put away so many calories you were already into the next day's allotment, so you got yourself a glass of diet soda.
- c. Were so engrossed in conversation, you're really not sure how many you ate.
3. You're at the mall, where the air is infused with the scent of baking cinnamon buns. You're finding it very hard to resist, so you:
- a. Enjoy the smell, but hurry on to the kitchenware store.
- b. Buy one, cut it in half, and share with your shopping companion (or, if you're alone, save it for breakfast the next morning).
- c. Buy one and try to eat half, but before you've reached the kids' clothing outlet, you've eaten the whole thing.