You know the scenario. You’ve done well all day - eating healthily (even declining a colleague’s mid-afternoon chocolate offering) and getting in your evening exercise.
Then come 8pm, seemingly out of nowhere, you’re driven by some evil force to consume the entire bag of potato crisps. Research published from renowned Tufts University reports that about 91% of women have these health-sabotaging cravings.
Often in the face of a strong urge to eat, willpower is often, well – powerless. So how can you handle these detrimental cravings and compulsions?
Understanding Food Cravings
The jury is still out on the absolute cause of food cravings. If the truth was known, there is probably a measure of validity to all of the popular theories. Some researchers say that a craving is our body’s way of alerting us to a lack of nutrients in our diet. Others claim that cravings are psychologically linked to the rewards that we received in childhood for good behaviour. Still, others say that cravings are driven by the desire for the release of “feel-good” hormones in the brain. Whatever the cause, there are strategies that you can employ to manage your cravings and stave off the frustrating self-sabotage.
Although it may not seem like it at times, cravings can be controlled:
Plan ahead and have healthy snacks on hand. When you feel that you need something sweet or salty, make sure you have an acceptable alternative on hand like fruit, low-sugar energy bars, veggie chips, popcorn, or even cheese.
Keep your blood sugar levels in check. Peaks and dips in blood sugar levels can drive food cravings. Eat a snack every couple of hours that includes a balance of protein, healthy fat, and carbohydrates that are low-glycemic. This strategy alone can often put a lid on hard-to-control cravings.
Don’t be afraid to indulge just a little. Incorporating foods that you crave can be done on a small scale and in conjunction with a meal. Simply allow yourself a small portion of the food you crave in the middle of your meal. By doing this, you won’t feel deprived and your cravings will be easier to control.
And here are a few things to avoid doing…
Don’t cut out entire food groups. For example, completely eliminating bread because you think it is making you overweight will only make you want it more. The tendency is often to overeat other foods in an effort to satisfy your craving for the food you have removed from your menu.
Avoid processed foods. They are already laden with excessive amounts of sugar and salt. Eating these calorie-laden foods often will leave you hungry before you should be, given their low nutritional value or presence of fibre
Eat mindfully and slowly. Have you ever eaten a whole container of ice cream in one sitting? How about that entire bag of crisps whilst you watched tv? When you eat fast, you can consume many more calories than you need or even want in a very short period of time. Make a habit of eating mindfully - a few bites at a time. This will give you time to realise that you are full.
Curbing food cravings for many of us takes more than willpower. It takes planning ahead, avoiding extremist behaviours and making some conscious decisions. Give these ideas a try and let us know if they are any help to you. They’ve definitely made a difference for us!