Young woman gobbing up marshmallows
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10 Tips On How to Curb Your Food Cravings

Craving a particular food can be overwhelming. So powerful a sensation, in fact, that very few of us can resist it. The desire is so intense that it can seem uncontrollable, believing that we need to satisfy that craving to make it go away.

Every person experiences food cravings differently. Some experts believe they last only about 3-5 minutes, others say around 20 minutes.

Research shows that women tend to go for the fat/sweet combinations like chocolate or cake. Men, on the other hand, usually prefer foods involving salt/fat combinations. Whichever way you look at it, cravings are usually junk or fast food and are unfortunately often the ones that are detrimental to healthy eating or weight loss intentions.

Carbohydrates and sugars can be especially hard to resist because they release serotonin in the brain. This is a chemical that has a wide variety of functions in the human body. It is sometimes called the happy chemical because it makes us feel fuzzy, warm and happy.

So, why do we get cravings?

According to studies, food cravings are caused by the areas of the brain that are responsible for memory, pleasure and reward.

An imbalance of hormones can cause food cravings, or they can be due to endorphins (happy hormones) that are released into the body after someone has eaten, which mirrors an addiction.

Feelings and emotions may also play a part in causing a food craving, especially if a person comfort eats.

Pregnant women can experience especially powerful cravings, which may be due to hormonal changes disrupting their taste and smell receptors.

There is also some evidence to suggest that there is a connection between cravings and nutrients, stating that our bodies crave certain food because it lacks those specific nutrients. To be honest, I wouldn’t agree with that notion entirely. For some, it may just be the perfect excuse to keep eating the wrong foods.

Cravings can be selective or non-selective.

Selective cravings are cravings for specific foods, which, for example, may be your favourite chocolate or crisps.

Non-selective cravings mean you just want to eat anything and everything. Women often get this increase in appetite just before or during a period. The hormonal changes associated with the menstrual cycle can make you feel ravenous, and the mood changes that sometimes accompany your period might lead you to crave certain foods.

Now that Easter is well and truly over, and you’re hopefully no longer surrounded by copious amounts of chocolate, this is a good time to combat your cravings. Here are some great tips:

1. Reduce stress levels 

Feeling stressed is not only dangerous to our general health, but it may also promote emotional eating and cravings for comfort foods. Studies suggest that women who are stressed are more prone to cravings for sugar.

It’s important to remember that stress alone may also cause weight gain, without the extra food cravings. It produces the cortisol hormone, which undoubtedly will hinder any desired weight loss, as well as promoting belly fat.

2. Don’t starve yourself

When you skip a meal, you are more likely to experience cravings simply because you will become extremely hungry. This means reaching for anything and everything remotely edible. If you know this happens to you, then it’s better to eat something filling in the first place.

3. Drink plenty of water

Dehydration can sometimes be mistaken for hunger and can heighten cravings, especially for sugary foods.

Drinking water should help reduce cravings, as well as flushing out toxins from the body and alleviating bloating. Aim to drink 8 glasses of water per day.

4. Lack of sleep

Not getting enough sleep could alter the body’s hormonal balance. Studies suggest that this can contribute to overeating and weight gain. From experience, clients who have trouble sleeping also find it difficult to lose weight.

5. Protein

Protein can make you feel fuller for longer, therefore keeping cravings at bay. Higher protein intake can ultimately help with weight loss by boosting your metabolism and burning more calories.

6. Chewing gum

Believe it or not, this can help stave off those snack cravings by keeping your mouth busy and your mind off food.

7. Brush your teeth

Yes, this works too! It’s a great way to signal your brain to stop eating. For those who are trying to lose weight, brushing your teeth to stop hunger pangs and cravings is sound advice.

8. Distance yourself from food or change the scenery

Some cravings are caused by habits. For example, if you buy a Snickers bar and a can of coke every morning as you pass the sweet shop, you’re reinforcing that craving, and you may even consider this an addiction. Chocolate isn’t addictive by the way, and by labelling it so, you may be giving yourself a good excuse to overeat. The simplest solution would be to take a different route. You’ll have no choice but to eliminate the temptation.

When you’re at home, if you sense a craving, distance yourself from food as quickly as possible. Go for a walk in the garden or down the road or do some housework. Dare I suggest a short workout might help? Do anything to distract yourself for as long as it takes for the craving to subside.

This is obvious, but make sure that your fridge and cupboards don’t contain any of your craved foods.

9. Be aware of how and what you eat

At what times of the month, if you’re female, or when during the day, do you get cravings? What foods do you crave? Gathering information and possibly keeping a log will make it easier for you to understand the triggers.

Sometimes, it may be better to satisfy the craving with a small portion of whatever it is that you fancy, as completely avoiding the food could lead to overeating or misery.

If you’re more likely to binge eat, then of course, it’s best to do whatever you can to avoid the craving altogether.

10. Planning is key

Taking time to create a healthy shopping list which includes good quality, wholesome snacks is a fundamental and helpful tool to help curb those cravings. So, if you are suddenly overwhelmed by a sweet craving, you’ll have a healthy option to hand.  Here are some of the most common cravings and their healthier alternative.

Crisps: Replace these with salty popcorn.

Chocolate: Replace this with raw chocolate which contains anti-oxidants. The intensity of dark chocolate makes it easier to feel satisfied with less, so one square or segment at a time is plenty.

Cake: Sugar cravings can be easily satisfied with fresh fruit. Keeping dried fruits, such as prunes or raisins, on hand may also be helpful for counteracting cravings when you’re out and about. I find that one Medjool date works brilliantly as its sweetness is so intense.

Fizzy drinks: Sparkling water with a drop of fruit juice or a slice of lemon or orange can do the trick.

 

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