Why Do Food Cravings Happen & How To Conquer Them?
Food cravings are way common than we think they are. In fact, more than 50% of people experience food cravings on a regular basis. They play a major role in weight gain, food addiction and binge eating.
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Being aware of your cravings and their triggers makes them much easier to avoid. It also makes it a lot easier to eat healthy and lose weight. Food cravings are the dieter’s worst enemy.
These are intense or uncontrollable desires for specific foods, stronger than normal hunger. When hunger strikes, your mind tells your body to eat one of these comfort foods.
When a craving strikes, it is your mind that tells your body needs to eat that food and that’s when you realise that you are craving something.
The organ that is to be blamed is the brain, because there are certain regions of the brain that include insula, caudate and hippocampus that get activated as soon as you crave any food.
These areas of the brain are responsible for linking memory and pleasure to food cravings.
So, if you experience a food craving and further satisfy them at some points, it is likely that these areas of the brain will get activated again and again making you feel hungry or crave for certain foods more than once.
The types of foods that people crave are highly variable, but these are often processed junk foods that are high in sugar.Cravings are one of the biggest reasons why people have problems losing weight and keeping it off.
10 Simple Ways to Prevent or Stop Unhealthy Food and Sugar Cravings
1. Drink Water
Thirst is often confused with hunger or food cravings.
If you feel a sudden urge for a specific food, try drinking a large glass of water and wait a few minutes.
You may find that the craving fades away, because your body was actually just thirsty.
Furthermore, drinking plenty of water may have many health benefits.
2. Eat More Protein
Eating more protein may reduce your appetite and keep you from overeating.
It also reduces cravings, and helps you feel full and satisfied for longer.
Increasing protein intake may reduce cravings by up to 60% and cut the desire to snack at night by 50%.
3. Distance Yourself From the Craving
When you feel a craving, try to distance yourself from it. For example, you can take a brisk walk or a shower to shift your mind onto something else.
A change in thought and environment may help stop the craving. Some studies have also shown that chewing gum can help reduce appetite and cravings.
4. Plan Your Meals
If possible, try to plan your meals for the day or upcoming week. By already knowing what you are going to eat, you eliminate the factor of spontaneity and uncertainty.
If you don’t have to think about what to eat at the following meal, you will be less tempted and less likely to experience cravings.
5. Avoid Getting Extremely Hungry
Hunger is one of the biggest reasons why we experience cravings. To avoid getting extremely hungry, it may be a good idea to eat regularly and have healthy snacks close at hand.
By being prepared, and avoiding long periods of hunger, you may be able to prevent the craving from showing up at all.
6. Fight Stress
Stress may induce food cravings and influence eating behaviors, especially for women.
Women under stress have been shown to eat significantly more calories and experience more cravings than non-stressed women.
Furthermore, stress raises your blood levels of cortisol, a hormone that can make you gain weight, especially in the belly area. Try to minimize stress in your environment by planning ahead, meditating and generally slowing down.
7. Practice Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is about practicing mindfulness, a type of meditation, in relation to foods and eating. It teaches you to develop awareness of your eating habits, emotions, hunger, cravings and physical sensations.
Mindful eating teaches you to distinguish between cravings and actual physical hunger. It helps you choose your response, instead of acting thoughtlessly or impulsively.
Eating mindfully involves being present while you eat, slowing down and chewing thoroughly. It is also important to avoid distractions, like the TV or your smartphone.
8. Get Enough Sleep
Your appetite is largely affected by hormones that fluctuate throughout the day. Sleep deprivation disrupts the fluctuations, and may lead to poor appetite regulation and strong cravings.
Studies support this, showing that sleep-deprived people are up to 55% more likely to become obese, compared to people who get enough sleep.
For this reason, getting good sleep may be one of the most powerful ways to prevent cravings from showing up.
9. Eat Proper Meals
Hunger and a lack of key nutrients can both cause certain cravings. Therefore, it’s important to eat proper meals at mealtimes.
This way, your body gets the nutrients it needs and you won’t get extremely hungry right after eating.
If you find yourself in need of a snack between meals, make sure it’s something healthy. Reach for whole foods, such as fruits, nuts, vegetables or seeds.
10. Don’t Go to the Supermarket Hungry
Grocery stores are probably the worst places to be when you are hungry or have cravings. First, they give you easy access to pretty much any food you could think of.
Second, supermarkets usually place the unhealthiest foods at eye level. The best way to prevent cravings from happening at the store is toshop only when you’ve recently eaten. Never ever go to the supermarket hungry.
5 Healthy Foods to Eat When Cravings Strike
1. Fresh Fruit
Fruit is naturally very sweet and a great choice when you get a sugar craving.In addition to tasting great, fruit is an extremely nutritious snack. It provides prebiotic fiber, antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds, all in very few calorie.
2. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt tastes creamy and indulgent, but it’s also really healthy. It’s higher in protein and lower in sugar than regular yogurt, and it’s a good source of calcium, B vitamins and beneficial bacteria.
3. Dark Chocolate
If you are craving chocolate, you can try swapping your regular milk chocolate for a small amount of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate that is made with at least 70% cocoa is not only delicious, but it also contains a high amount of antioxidants.
4. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a mild-flavored cheese product that’s low in calories but very nutritious.
Dates are a type of pitted fruit that’s often consumed after being dried. They are very sweet and contain a high amount of sugar.
However, they are a rich source of antioxidants and contain fiber, potassium, iron and a number of beneficial plant compounds. If you’re craving something sweet, one or two dates can help satisfy your urge, while providing your body with other beneficial nutrients.
Got useful cues about mindful eating and how to avoid overindulging from this article? Let us know your views in the comment section. For more insight on weight loss, clean eating and lifestyle, talk to our expert Truweight Nutritionist today. The first consultation is on us. Click here to avail.