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Constant cravings: Why can’t I stop thinking about food?

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Even though you make sure to eat on a schedule that should keep you full until the next meal, and you choose healthy options that are in line with your goals, it feels like your brain is trying to sabotage you. It never seems to stop telling you to eat more, or urging you to eat foods that are salty or sugary, even when you're mindfully trying to limit those. 

Why does your brain work overtime to send these messages? And more importantly, how can you quiet down that saboteur?

According to the Obesity Medicine Association (OMA), constant cravings occur when you can't seem to feel full no matter how much you've eaten. Constant Cravings™  is also one of the four MetabolicPrint™ profiles—or phenotypes—categories that help determine which factors are at play with weight management for each individual.

What is MetabolicPrint?

MetabolicPrint is a proprietary metabolic health assessment engine that Found-affiliated physicians use to help identify what’s causing someone’s inability to lose weight. Every person has a unique MetabolicPrint profile based on genetics, medical history, family history, weight history, lifestyle, and more.

In the past, when providers prescribed drugs for weight loss, they often used the same medications for everyone. But, obesity is a complex condition, and what causes one person’s weight gain differs from another’s. Contributing factors may include a family history of obesity, stress, poor sleep, health disorders like Cushing’s syndrome or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and even the environment.

Each person’s MetabolicPrint profile has distinctive attributes, typically with a dominant profile, that are useful in understanding what may be driving behavior and how to address those factors in a meaningful way. Here's a look at the Constant Cravings profile, and how Found can help. 

What are the symptoms of Constant Cravings?

Food cravings are very common, and researchers estimate that more than 90% of people experience them regularly. However, for many, that might mean craving a burger when you smell one cooking on a nearby grill or wanting a family favorite like sugar cookies during the holidays. 

But cravings differ from those examples in someone with a Constant Cravings profile, because they're not bubbling up from nostalgia or habit. And they're not a temporary longing based on aromas or seeing foods. Instead, these cravings are linked to a lack of satiety, as if you can never feel full. This hunger is often accompanied by cravings for specific choices like fatty, salty, or sweet foods.

Why does my brain cause Constant Cravings?

To understand why cravings might be sending out continual messages about hunger even when you're eating, it's helpful to know how your brain creates and delivers these prompts.

According to recent research on appetite control, the two most dominant hormones in hunger regulation are ghrelin and leptin. Sometimes called "the hunger hormone," ghrelin sparks the initial response that you need to eat when your brain senses lowered levels of energy for physical functions. 

When you eat enough for the food to be turned into energy effectively, the brain switches to an elevated amount of leptin—the hormone signaling that you're full. The two hormones work together to regulate appetite and satiety. But when there's an imbalance, it can lead to dysregulation, where one hormone is more dominant than the other. For those with the Constant Cravings profile, for example, a lower amount of leptin may lead to feeling hungry no matter how much you eat. 

What is the difference between constant cravings and actual hunger?

Both constant cravings and hunger can coincide—after all, when you're actually hungry, your brain fires off signals that prompt you to eat. But there are telltale signs to indicate that you're dealing more with cravings than with hunger.

The most notable is that you continue to have cravings even after you've just eaten. In fact, you may also have these cravings during a meal despite trying to satisfy your feelings of hunger. The signals you need to feel full and satiated are either dulled or simply not there.

How does Found help address Constant Cravings?

Knowing your MetabolicPrint profile can lead to more targeted weight loss efforts because it addresses the root cause of overweight and obesity, offering a personalized approach that combines specific behavior-change tools, community support, and medications geared toward your unique profile.

“The way we determine your MetabolicPrint at Found involves a detailed intake and medical assessment by a clinician in order to come up with your MetabolicPrint to create your treatment plan,” explains Rekha Kumar, MD, chief medical officer at Found Health. “Like a fingerprint, it’s uniquely yours, and like a blueprint, it gives us a plan to build on.” 

Personalized treatment can have a powerful effect on outcomes and research backs this up. In a study in the journal Obesity, targeted therapy based on phenotypes led to almost two times more weight loss after a year than non-targeted therapy. Participants in the phenotype-guided group in that study lost on average about 16% of their original body weight as compared to an average of around 9% for those not treated based on phenotypes.

Phenotype-led targeted therapy—which Found provides via the MetabolicPrint—combines a breadth of approaches, including providing resources like coaching that can address individual behaviors, access to a community where you can get support whenever you need it, and strategic use of anti-obesity medications prescribed by a provider trained in obesity medicine. For example, those with the Constant Cravings profile may be prescribed medication to suppress hunger and boost calorie burn overall while prompting feelings of fullness that can reduce impulsive eating.

Other MetabolicPrint profiles include Mood Responses,™ which is eating triggered by emotions; Brain-Gut Disconnect,™ when the digestive system moves so fast, people are frequently hungry; and Slow Metabolism,™ when someone’s body burns calories at a slower rate. 

With clinician-led targeted medication therapy, social support, coaching, and expertise, Found can help you quiet that mental noise driving your cravings and let that saboteur rest.

Found is among the largest medically-supported telehealth weight care clinics in the country, having served more than 200,000 members to date. To discover your MetabolicPrint and start your journey with Found, take our quiz. *Individual results may vary. 

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