Dr. Michele Kerulis: Food Addictions, Food Cravings, and Healthy Eating


Tune in at 7 p.m. (CST) tonight for an Everything Healthy TV live-stream interview with Michele Kerulis, Ed.D., LCPC, CC-AASP, Program Director of the Adler School Counseling Psychology, Sport and Health Psychology Specialization program –as she discusses “Food Addictions, Food Cravings, and Healthy Eating.” Dr. Kerulis, a Certified Consultant, Association of Applied Sport Psychology, and President Elect of the Illinois Counseling Association, offers background here on what she will discuss. During the live stream, we will post the five tips that she will offer on air–and an additional five on how you can combat food cravings and addictions.

Many people experience challenges around food. Some people experience food addictions and food cravings. There are ways to overcome food challenges, including learning about addictions, cravings, and about healthy eating.

Addictions are characteristically associated with clinical impairment due to an individual’s relationship with food. The relationship with food can begin as something pleasurable, but then spirals into a compulsive behavior that results in interference with daily life responsibilities. Addictions are correlated with higher perceived stress levels. The brain has reactions that reduce stress when the person engages in the addictive behavior (food). Valerie Taylor’s research team examined the role of addiction in obesity and discovered that engaging in an addiction lowers the negative emotional state that people experience. However, this is short-term and negatively effects peoples’ lives. Thus, a destructive cycle develops.

Food cravings are more common than food addictions. Professor Larry Christensen from the University of South Alabama defined cravings as intense desires to eat a specific food or type of food that is very hard to resist. Cravings involve physiological, emotional, and behavioral aspects. Both men and women experience food cravings, although Professor Christensen  noted that women experience cravings at a higher rate. The most-often craved foods are sweet carbohydrates and high-fat foods. This is linked to several areas of the brain, its rewards centers, which release feel-good hormones.

Cravings are also linked to total sleep time. Andrea Landis and her team of nurses found that people who had an ideal amount of sleep (7-10 hours) and less daytime napping had fewer cravings than those who took afternoon naps and did not have ideal nighttime sleep. Sleep patterns and cravings are also related to the brain. A.M. Landis’ research team suggest that people who have less sleep may trigger a production of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger, and decreased production of leptin, a hunger-suppressing hormone. In other words, sleep-deprived people produce brain chemicals that can increase daytime and nighttime cravings.

The good news is that addictions and cravings can be managed.  People who believe they have a food addiction should consult with their doctors to determine the best treatment method. Those with cravings can find relief by making changes in their lives and committing to a healthy lifestyle. This includes regular check-ups with your physician, daily activity and exercise, and a well-balanced eating plan. It is important to have social support, such as from friends, family, online support, or in-person meetings, when working on changing a behavior such as reducing impulses related to cravings. It is normal to have setbacks when changing behaviors, and it is O.K. to have some of your favorite not-so-healthy foods once in a while and in small portions.

Learn more by watching Dr. Kerulis’ live-stream interview at 7 p.m. (CST) tonight on Everything Healthy TV live-stream interview. Following the interview, check back for her 10 tips on how you can combat food cravings and addictions.