The Best Way to Control Food Cravings
Food Cravings – Just Say No!
If only it were that easy. Feel like devouring a bar of chocolate? Just say no. What about a bag of crisps? No, no, no. But the cold, hard reality is that the answer is much more likely to be yes, yes, yes. When the feeling strikes, there’s not much that can stand in the way of you and that chocolate, not even the thought of thinner thighs.
But you don’t have to let food cravings get in the way of having a healthy diet. If you learn to recognise your particular triggers, you might just be able to swap the chocolate for carrots.
Time of day
Many people seem to experience food cravings mid afternoon or later in the evening after their evening meal. These are often the times when our blood sugar levels drop prompting us to think about food again. There are some tricks to preventing this from happening though.
1) Eat foods with a high satiety rating. These are foods that make you feel full for longer and don’t cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Good examples are vegetables and proteins like meat or fish. Avoiding high glycemic index foods, like white bread or pasta, will go a long way in helping prevent cravings several hours later.
2) Head the cravings off at the pass. If you know that you always feel like a little something to snack on at 4pm then get in early with something healthy before you lose the ability to make a rational decision. Some raw vegetables or raw almonds at 3.30pm should prevent the craving from taking hold of you and making you eat something that you’d rather avoid.
Your state of mind will often play a role in what sort of food you start to crave. Knowing this could also help you to make better foods choices, prevent the cravings from occurring or provide you with a way of substituting food for an activity.
1) Angry = crunchy. An oral version of a punching bag, biting into something hard satisfies us when we’ve been wound up by something or someone. Raw nuts or carrots would make a great choice at this time. A non food substitute for crunchy food would be to do some kind of physical activity. Go for a walk, count to 10 or take 10 deep breaths.
2) Stress = salty. Our adrenal glands, those responsible for making the stress hormones which see us though the grind of daily life, also control sodium levels. It has been observed in many different animals, including us humans, that stress increases our desire for salt. So if you’re the kind of person who fancies a packet of crisps after your lunch or in the afternoon, and will also admit to being a little or a lot stressed, then you are in fact self medicating or providing your body with something which is needs.
But before you start to feel too self righteous, excess sodium is bad and the fats found in crisps are bordering on nasty, so you would do well to make a swap to a healthier version. Instead of crisps, reach for some tamari toasted sunflower seeds or ryevita with vegemite. These will satisfy your desire for salt and provide good nutrients as well.
Physical substitutes for food should work well if you’re a stressed, salty food craver. Do some exercise, run up and down the stairs, do a few push ups or being active in any way you can will help reduce your stress and hopefully the craving as well.
3) Sweet/Fatty = sad. Sweet and fatty foods are what we reach for when we need a little TLC, which is why chocolate rates so highly on the pampering scale. Often these foods are rewards for when we’re feeling down, our comfort foods in times of need. The bad news is that there really isn’t a substitute for chocolate. It’s the only food whose melting point is the same as our own body temperature, which is why it melts so deliciously in our mouth. This is known as the “mouth feel” or how pleasant it feels in our mouth and in comparison all other foods, chocolate wins hands down. But if chocolate is your thing, you can make it slightly healthier by always eating dark varieties. This should satisfy the craving for a sweet and fatty food, but with less sugar and the added benefit of antioxidants, is much better than white or milk versions.
You could also try to substitute chocolate altogether with a more natural product such as raw cacao or try and comfort yourself with something other than food, for instance a hot drink, listening to soothing music or having a chat with a friend.
Researchers have discovered that activities which involve our visuospatial sketchpad are effective at reducing food cravings in dieters and non-dieters alike. The visuospatial sketchpad is the part of our brain which remembers the things we see and where they are around us. For instance working out how to navigate our way through a building or driving a car all involve this part of our brain. 3-D puzzles, jigsaws or even computer games like Tetris also use this part of the brain so if cravings really take a hold of you, distract yourself by doing something involves remembering colours, shapes, or the movement of objects in space.