If you have ever tried a restrictive diet, then it’s very likely that you will have experienced the dreaded food cravings.
Food cravings are intense, and sometimes irresistible urges to eat. We usually end up craving a specific food or taste. Foods high in sugars or other carbohydrates commonly cause cravings, and these can be especially difficult to control.
The reason that sweet foods and foods rich in other carbohydrates trigger our cravings, is because they fire off feel-good chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and other relaxing endorphins in the brain. The effects of these chemicals may make a person more likely to seek them out repeatedly.
Satisfying cravings can become a habit, and it may be easy to eat sugary or carbohydrate-rich foods without thinking about the consequences, especially during periods of stress or low moods.
However, once we are able kicks the habit, for example by following a number of the strategies listed below, the cravings usually end and we are able to better manage these urges.
Here are a few strategies that can help with managing food cravings:
- Drink Water
When a food craving strikes, try drinking a large glass of water and waiting a few minutes. If the craving goes away, the body may just have been thirsty.
A study from 2014 found that participants who drank an extra 1.5 litres water weighed less, had less body fat, and reported more significant appetite reduction than those participants who did not drink the water.
Drinking more water may also help people who are dieting to lose weight.
- Eat more Protein
Many people find that eating more protein helps to keep cravings to a minimum, as protein may help the body to feel fuller for longer.
There have been various studies on this - One study of overweight teenage girls showed that eating a high-protein breakfast reduced cravings significantly, and another study in overweight men showed that increasing protein intake to 25% of calories reduced cravings by 60%. Additionally, the desire to snack at night was reduced by 50%.
So making sure you get adequate protein in your diet, especially at breakfast time, could help you greatly reduce your food cravings.
- Hunger or craving question
One way to differentiate between cravings and real hunger is to ask yourself questions, such as:
Would I eat something healthy instead?
This exercise is called the health test. If you cannot tell whether you are really hungry or just craving a sugary sweet, asking yourself whether you would eat an apple instead.
If the answer is yes, the body is likely hungry, and if the answer is no, you may be having a craving.
It is also worth to visualise the long term consequences of snacking, this can help some people control their cravings.
*Difficulty losing weight because of the excess calories.
*Health risks – Obesity, Diabetes, and High Cholesterol, etc.
*Feeling depressed after snaking as the guilt hits.
This exercise can help you to see the big picture and remember why you’re dieting or trying to restrict certain foods.
- Reduce Stress
Stress has been proven to play big a role in hunger cravings, and long-term stressors can cause some people to crave foods that are sugary or more calorie-dense.
Finding ways to reduce stress may not only help to eliminate cravings, but also improve our sleep quality and overall mood.
Simple means of reducing stress, such as taking regular breaks from work, or even taking a few deep breaths, can help the body to refocus and calm the mind.
It may also help to try mindful stress-relieving practices, such as:
- Plan your meals
If possible, try to plan your meals for the day or upcoming week. By already knowing what you're 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. Knowing that you have a planned meal coming up, you may find it easier to wait.
Remember that hunger is a big reason for cravings, so avoid extreme hunger by including a healthy snack in your plan. It may be a good idea to eat little and often.
- 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.
Cravings are very common, so you are not alone. In fact, more than 50% of people experience cravings on a regular basis. They play a major role in weight gain, food addiction, and binge eating.
Being aware of your cravings and their triggers make them much easier to avoid. It also makes it a lot easier to eat healthily and lose weight.
Following the tips on this list, such as drinking more water, eating more protein, planning your meals, and getting enough sleep, may allow you to take charge next time cravings try to take over.
Please comment below if you found this article helpful. Do you have any other helpful tips and tricks to control food cravings? Share this with someone who you know would benefit from reading this. The U Perform family loves sharing ideas and encouraging each other.