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CAN NATURE REDUCE JUNK FOOD CRAVINGS?

CAN NATURE REDUCE JUNK FOOD CRAVINGS?

You're not alone; the majority of adults experience food cravings.

A leading scientist on addictive foods, Steven Witherly, says cravings are a treacherous combination of the sensorial experience of eating (i.e. crunch, aroma) coupled with macronutrients inside a food. A craving can stem from external persuasion, a deep-seated habit, and even the wants of nonsensical gut bacteria. What's worse, trying to abstain from eating foods we crave intensifies the desire. So getting around your hankering, particularly for junk foods, seems impossible.  

How can we program our brains and bodies not to crave junk food? It may be as simple as seeing green.  

home alone eating GIF

A new 2019 study published in the Journal of Health & Place found that exposure to nature reduces cravings. Experts in the UK investigated the unique relationship between nature exposure, cravings, and negative emotions, and sure enough, an increased exposure to nature reduced the strength and frequency of cravings. Not only junk food but cigarettes and alcohol too.  

This revelation may come as no surprise to practitioners of ecotherapy, a method of therapy that involves spending time in nature. Also dubbed 'green therapy' this practice is backed by dozens of studies, some showing significantly improved mental health among at-risk youth and individuals living with dementia or mental health illnesses who are exposed to nature therapy.  

Another 2014 study published in the Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning proved that moving to a house with more green area leads to sustained improvements in mental health.  

david documentary GIF

The recent study connecting nature exposure to diminished cravings is unique, however, for its distinction on what type of nature makes a quantitative difference in mitigating negative emotions and urge to eat a whole box of Oreos. Findings indicate you don't have to live on a farm in the middle of nowhere. All you need is a nearby green space.  

A tree, garden, or green area either outside your window or accessible from home were both associated with craving reduction. Urban green spaces included.  

Green spaces usually consist of maintained or organically flourishing environmental areas like reserves, wilderness environments, or urban parks. In cities, green spaces offer recreational or aesthetic infusions into urban landscapes and studies indicate people living in these areas have healthier stress hormone profiles and less anxiety.  

Now (thanks to scientists) we know this health branch extends to junk food cravings. Intensity and intrusiveness of cravings weakened, according to surveyed participants in the study. 

Next time you're jonesing for chocolate, soda, or (insert your guilty pleasure meal), open the windows or get to your closest patch of grass.  

grass GIF

Need reinforcements? Drink a big glass of mineral-rich water, 0-sugar tea, or coffee.