FOOD CRAVINGS ARE REAL!
Your mouth is watering, you are distracted, and all you can think about is a blissful piece of smooth chocolate melting in your mouth while angels toot trumpets next to your head. This craving is driving you crazy, but you don’t want to give in. You’ve been doing so great with eating healthy and staying on track and you’re not actually hungry, so you decide to hit the internet for a little motivation to resist. The number one article on resisting food cravings that pops up on Google tells you to use “the swap method.” Craving chocolate? Eat a piece of fruit. Um, ok, because those are the same, right and it's going to really satisfy my craving!
This is not that type of article.
Cravings are real. They aren’t just a lack of willpower. Cravings can usually be categorised as either psychological (I’m stressed; gimme chocolate now!) or physiological (you are dehydrated, therefore, you feel thirsty) and somewhere in between (I’m starving and need to eat)
Where do these all consuming urges to eat come from? Despite popular belief, says Mary Hartley, RD, “studies show that food cravings are not linked to nutrient deficiencies.” hhmm, food for thought despite what I have heard.
“People who have unstable blood sugar—metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes and diabetes—do have physical cravings for food when their blood sugar drops,” says Hartley, resident nutritionist at Diets In Review who blogs at AskMaryRD.com “But for everyone else, cravings are mostly psychological.”
A psychological food craving happens when you see something tasty, smell something yummy or a stressor causes you to reach for something comforting. Stress, depression, happiness, even boredom, can cause you to crave a certain food or just food in general. The good thing about psychological cravings is that they do pass as time goes on, if you are strong enough not to give in to them or come up with a game plan to stop them in their tracks.
HOW TO CONTROL FOOD CRAVINGS
There are a few things you can do to battle any sort of craving. A little later, we will tackle specific cravings if you are prone to repeats. To reduce cravings, though try a few of these simple techniques…
1. Sit on it. When your craving strikes, it can be easy to reach for what you are longing for to get rid of the uncomfortable feelings, but don’t give in right away. “Learn to de-stress on the spot with ‘urge surfing’,” advises Hartley. “When a craving starts, picture the urges as waves that grow in intensity before they crash. Breathe calmly, deeply and intentionally while observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment until they pass. And then bask in the glow of your success, give thanks, and process your feelings and environmental circumstances that led up to the craving.”
2. Get up and moving. Leave the environment you are in and get your blood pumping. Whether you get in a good sweaty workout or simply go for a walk, getting endorphins from physical activity instead of a lustful food has two pronged benefits: exercise is great for your figure, and you are building healthy relationships with food by avoiding relying on food to get your feel good buzz on.
3. Distract your brain. If physical activity isn’t an option for whatever reason, play a game of Words with Friends, do a puzzle, watch some funny YouTube videos or do anything that preoccupies your mind. Even if it’s just a few minutes, it’ll help to distract you from your food craving or whatever emotion is lurking under the surface.
4. Give in a little. If you surfed your urge, ran a 5k and did a 1,000,000 piece puzzle, but you still can’t shake the visions of gummy bears dancing in your head, eat a dang bear or five. Making room in your diet for a favorite treat once in a while can actually help you resist the urge to overindulge on them if you deprive yourself over an extended period of time. Remember, all good things in moderation!
TYPES OF CRAVINGS
Are you prone to specific cravings on a consistent basis? Some people crave sweet, some crave salt and some just need a good crunch every once in a while. Next time your personal craving hits, use these strategies:
When a SALTY craving hits: Explore new herbs and spices. Sometimes we are actually craving more flavor instead of salt, so explore different flavors by using new herbs and spices in your cooking. Salt is not the only way to add flavor, we all consume too much as it is. Also, balance your electrolytes. Try eating a banana before you reach for salt. A little bit of sodium may just do the trick.
When a CARB craving hits: Learn to love whole grains. You must include carbs as a healthy part of your diet. Your brain runs efficiently on carbohydrates, so don’t cut them out, but don’t bury your head in a plate of white pasta. Your favorite carbohydrates can be found in whole-grain varieties, which won’t spike your blood sugar, setting you up for another craving later on. Whole grains also have a ton of fiber which will keep you fuller, longer.
When a CHOCOLATE craving hits: Practice moderation. Chocolate increases seratonin and endorphin production in the brain, which is why it is such a common craving during stressful times. Chocolate isn’t all bad though, so pick a pure, high-quality dark chocolate and allow yourself just a few squares. You will appease your craving, get the chocolate’s antioxidant-rich health benefits and stay sane, while avoiding the added sugars and unhealthy fat in highly processed milk chocolate. Make your own like I do, see my previous blog for the recipe or email me and I will happily send it to you.
When a CRUNCHY craving hits: Hit something. Anger and anxiety are the most common reasons why we experience cravings for crunch. The mechanical process of chewing, crunching and destroying a bag of chips releases tension, but you can do this in a more healthful way. Take up boxing, punch a pillow or lace up your sneaks and go pound some pavement.
Or pick a healthy crunch. So you aren’t angry, you just want something crunchy. I get it. There are a ton of healthy options that provide a ton of crunch. Try pita chips, kale chips, raw veggies made less boring with a delicious side of hummus, rice cakes with smear of almond butter or a nice bowl of popcorn, apples have a great crunch too!
Don’t think of your cravings as a weakness, they happen to everyone. How you handle them is the key. Control your cravings with a plan of attack for when they strike. That way, they won’t control you.