How do you reduce food cravings? Is it even possible? When you are busy battling cravings for sugar, carbs, or other high-calorie treats it’s often hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Food cravings are a big problem for a lot of people. So, if they are an issue for you, console yourself with the fact that there are plenty of people in the same boat.
Pizza, potato chips, french fries, buns, cakes, and candy—show me someone who says they’ve never experienced any of these cravings and I’ll show you a liar.
Whether it be sudden desires for salty, high-fat food or an attack of the sweet tooth, we all experience cravings from time to time. Although it’s true some people are more prone to cravings than others.
Fighting hunger cravings is hard work. Allowing the cravings to win can be one of the main reasons some people gain weight. Cravings are also one of the most formidable obstacles you will need to overcome when you are trying to get back in shape. But knowledge is power.
This article explains some of the main reasons why cravings occur and how to beat them Reading it will help you “know thine enemy” and make you better equipped to fight your hunger cravings and win.
What Causes Hunger Cravings?
There are lots of theories about why people crave the foods that they do. Many of them don’t hold weight.
Some people believe nutritional deficiencies may be to blame. However, although sodium deficiency may trigger urges to eat salty food, there is no conclusive evidence that suggests a link between cravings and poor nutrition.
In fact, many of the foods that are so attractive to people with a sweet tooth often have very little nutritional value at all.
So, if it’s not nutritional, what’s the problem? The truth is there are many reasons why hunger cravings occur. For instance, Lack of sleep can do it.
Research shows this is because not getting enough sleep can disrupt your hormone levels leading to reductions in leptin and increases in ghrelin.
This isn’t a science class so there’s no need to get overly technical. All you need to know is leptin suppresses appetite and ghrelin increases it.
Women can be particularly vulnerable to cravings. Again, this can be put down to a matter of hormones rather than nutritional deficiencies.
The sex hormones estrogen and progesterone appear to be capable of influencing hunger and cravings. During menstruation, levels of these hormones can fluctuate wildly. This probably explains why so many women find themselves gaining extra pounds around the time of their periods.
Menopause makes female estrogen and progesterone levels go wild as well.
There also appears to be a link between hunger and serotonin. That’s the feel-good hormone you may have heard people talking about. When serotonin levels go awry it affects the mood and may encourage you to comfort eat.
So, if you have a problem with cravings, the cause is more likely to be hormonal than nutritional.
Don’t Let Your Bad Habits Hold You Back
We human beings are apt to develop certain habits and not all of them are good. Especially when it comes to eating and food.
When you kick back and relax on the sofa, fire-up the TV, and then reach for a bar of chocolate or a bag of potato chips, is it really hunger?
Probably not. It’s just a bad habit you got into a long time ago. In fact, this association between food and chilling out may be one of the reasons you gained weight in the first place.
Some people carry a bag of candy around with them in their pocket or purse and dip into it often throughout the day. It’s not because they are hungry. Nor is it due to a genuine craving. It’s really just a case of them wanting that candy because they know that it’s there.
Having on-hand candy is a bad habit and it can be a hard one to break. If you normally carry candy and stop doing so, the chances are you will crave it when it’s no longer available but the craving is borne of habit. It’s got nothing to do with your nutritional needs or your hormones.
How to Fight Habit-Related Food Cravings
Fighting habit-related hunger cravings is hard, but it’s not impossible. Instead of watching TV go for an evening stroll or take up a new sport or any other alternative pursuit such as learning a new language.
If you must watch TV try sitting in a different chair and give your hands something to do, such as knitting, counting rosary beads, or working to solve a Rubik’s cube.
If you have to munch, choose celery or carrots in preference to unhealthy snacks and gradually reduce the number of sweets available in your pocket or purse.
Like it or not, you trained yourself to follow the bad habits and you can train yourself to do something new.
6 Tips and Tricks to Knock Those Cravings on the Head
Some of these tips will work better for some people than they do for others. We urge you to try them all. It’s the best way to discover which ones work best for you. In a battle against cravings, it’s a little like choosing your weapons of choice.
1. Drink Some Water
Drinking a large glass of water can be a good way to reduce food cravings. If you want, you can drink two.
Wait a couple of minutes and notice what happens. Even if the craving does not vanish completely, the feeling of fullness in your stomach will likely make the craving less intense.
2. Drink Some Coffee
Drinking coffee may also be a good way to reduce your food cravings but you need to take it black. Adding milk, cream, or sugar will also add extra calories.
Use an alternative sweetener if you must but it’s generally best to wean yourself away from sweet things. It will help you develop new good habits.
Research shows coffee can suppress energy intake. That means after you drink it you may have less desire to eat.
The effect may be due to the caffeine, the taste of the coffee, or some other factor. There’s a need for further study.
However, don’t worry if you are not good with caffeine. Some evidence suggests decaffeinated coffee may suppress hunger and cravings too.
3. Gaming is Good
Gaming is good for demanding your attention and distracting you from cravings. Some gamers get so engrossed they may forget to eat for several hours.
Okay, you may not have a PlayStation or Game Boy, but there’s a good chance there will be games on your phone. Choose one of those instead.
Believe it or not, there is actually scientific evidence to back up this idea.
Research conducted at the University of Plymouth shows playing the game Tetris on a smartphone can weaken cravings for food. It works for drugs as well and may reduce craving by as much as 20%.
4. Eat More Protein
Adding more protein to your diet is another good way to reduce food cravings.
Protein is one of the three macronutrients your body needs. The other two are fats and carbs. Research shows protein is the most filling.
This is partly because protein reduces ghrelin. However, it also boosts levels of another hormone (peptide YY) that makes you feel full.
5. Clean Your Teeth
Hopefully, you will already be doing this at least once per day but there’s a lot to be said for becoming extra minty-fresh.
If you are already in the habit of brushing your teeth after every meal, adding some extra brush-work to your daily routine may work for you on a subconscious level.
Because you are already used to brushing your teeth as an after-eating activity, doing so at other times may trick your mind into thinking your stomach has just been fed.
This tip works in another way too. The taste of the toothpaste in your mouth may make it hard to eat anything for a while. Apart from preventing your full enjoyment of certain foods, it can make some of them taste terribly bad.
6. Practice Mindful Eating
There’s a good chance you won’t have heard of mindful eating or know what it is. No worries. It’s not rocket science and no changing of religion is required.
Mindfulness isn’t just about eating. For many people, it’s a way of life. Mindful eating is just one aspect of these people’s lives and it’s the only part of mindfulness we need to concern ourselves with here.
So, how do you do it? It’s not hard. It’s just a case of concentrating on the food in your mouth. Instead of gulping it down or chewing it mindlessly while your mind is on other things, such as a book or the TV, focus on the food. This will allow you to make the most of its flavor and become more aware of its texture.
One of the good things about mindful eating is it helps you to enjoy your food more. This allows your meals to be more satisfying. It can also prevent cravings later on.
Other Things You Can Do to Prevent Cravings
There are plenty of other ways to keep hunger and food cravings under control. As already mentioned earlier in this article, pursuing sporting and exercise pursuits is one of them.
It can also help if you apply a “little but often” mentality to your day. This entails eating considerably smaller food portions at mealtimes but having more (healthy) meals throughout the day.
Eating little but often may prevent the blood sugar spikes and crashes that sometimes trigger cravings for high-calorie foods.
Although it may be hard at first, one of the best things you can do is to adopt a healthier lifestyle and then stick to it. Think of it as being an important ingredient in the recipe for a new and healthier you.