Cravings are a dieter's worst nightmare. We've all dealt with them, we've all succumbed to them, but is it possible to truly overcome them?
These intense and sometimes uncontrollable desires for certain foods are stronger than normal hunger, and they can be one of the main reasons people have trouble losing weight and keeping that weight off.
Cravings play on your impulses, which is why it’s best to stop food cravings before they start. Of course, that’s easier said than done. We all have busy lives, and it can be so easy to give in to a craving when you don’t have time to prepare a healthier option.
But before we look into eliminating food cravings or preventing them before they start, let’s examine what causes cravings in the first place.
Everybody experiences cravings differently, but nobody is immune. Food cravings originate in regions of the brain that are in charge of pleasure, reward, and memory. More specifically, these three regions of the brain are the hippocampus, caudate, and insula. Research shows that these areas of the brain are activated when you feel a food craving.
So, why are these areas tied to food cravings? It often comes down to desire and emotion. When we are stressed or anxious, food cravings are more likely to rear their ugly heads. Carbohydrates boost serotonin levels, which can provide a calming effect. Fat and sugar are believed to provide the same calming feeling.
Additionally, if your diet does not have much variety, the end result can be more food cravings. But it doesn't hurt that we typically crave foods that taste good or have fond memories of. These memories can be powerful.
Food cravings can be hard to fight, but there are a number of ways to reduce and even eliminate the cravings that plague your daily life. Once you have these cravings under control, it’s much easier to maintain a proper diet.
Believe it or not, thirst is often confused with food cravings or hunger in general. When you feel a craving coming on, make sure to drink a large glass of water and wait things out for a few minutes. It's perfectly likely that your craving will soon fade away because your body was just craving some high-quality H2O.
It's no surprise that drinking a lot of water has plenty of health benefits, so there's no good reason to get dehydrated on a daily basis. In fact, drinking water before eating can actually help reduce your appetite and promote weight loss.
This one can be difficult if you have a crazy schedule, but you really just need one afternoon or evening to pull it off. Plan ahead and prepare your meals for the upcoming week, or even just a day or two. If you already know what you're going to eat - and if it's already made - you significantly lower the number of opportunities to give in to cravings.
Think about it: When are you most likely to give in to a craving? It's when there's uncertainty about your next meal and you're pressed for time. It’s a lot harder to give in to temptation when you have a meal already prepared in your fridge or lunch box.
Meal planning also ensures you eat regularly and don't become too hungry. It's only natural to get cravings when you're hungry, and the cravings only get worse the longer you wait to eat your next meal. Meal plans give your diet structure and ensure you don't go too long without eating.
Stress has been known to influence eating behaviors, especially for women, and things are no different when it comes to cravings. When you're stressed out, you're much more likely to consume more calories and experience more cravings than someone who isn't stressed.
In conjunction, stress raises cortisol levels in the blood. Excess of this hormone can result in weight gain.
So, if you want to control your cravings, try to cut stress out of your life. This might seem impossible at first, but there are a number of ways to reduce stress through self-care. Check out our blog for tips: 4 Self-Care Practices that Help Your Stress Problems.
People lose sleep for a variety of reasons. Maybe you're a night owl. Maybe you have a newborn that keeps you up all night. You might even just have trouble going to sleep in general.
Whatever the case, this lack of sleep is directly related to your food cravings. If you're not getting enough sleep each night, your brain produces extra ghrelin. Ghrelin is a chemical that tells your brain you are hungry.
Simultaneously, a sleep-deprived body releases less leptin, which is a chemical that lets your brain know when your stomach is full. It's easy to see how this combination can lead to more cravings and overeating. If you can get more sleep, it's important that you do so. It will make your life a whole lot easier.
Some light exercise has multiple benefits. Not only will it keep your mind off of food for the time being, but it also releases endorphins. Endorphins are your brain's feel-good chemicals and they help stifle cravings.
Examples of light exercise include a brisk walk, jogging, pushups/bodyweight exercises, or anything that will get your heart rate up.
You should already know that protein and fiber are essential to a successful detox, but did you know that they can also help manage cravings?
Fiber and protein are proven nutrients for those looking to lose weight. They are the building blocks of any proper diet because they keep you full and satisfied, preserving lean muscle mass and improving digestion.
The main benefit of feeling full for a longer period of time is that cravings can be almost completely eliminated from your daily life. Snacking is a problem for many people, but a fuller feeling reduces the desire to snack by a great deal.
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