So, you have stuck to your diet and exercise plans for a good few days. You are feeling GOOD. You are relaxing in the evening when suddenly you are overtaken by the most terrible food cravings.
Before you know it, you have eaten half a tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and a whole chocolate bar!
Now you feel terrible, all the effort you put into healthy eating feels like a waste and your motivation plummets.
If this sounds like you then you have come to the right place for some top tips on how to overcome those pesky food cravings.
Where do Food Cravings Come From?
Well, there is a lot of debate, from nutritional experts and medics alike, regarding food cravings.
Whatever the cause, it is certainly true that food cravings are totally different from hunger. Our brains respond to certain foods by releasing feel-good chemicals in the brain.
This process stimulates our reward centres in the brain and thus a pattern of craving follows.
The four main culprits that will have you obsessing and drooling and breaking your diet are:-
- Refined Carbohydrates
- Refined Sugar
- Salty foods
If you are really struggling with motivation, weight loss or any other issues try the AMAZING Talking Moose App. Moose simply pops up (at time intervals set by you) and gives you suggestions (based on hypnosis and NLP techniques) that work for you without you even knowing.
7 Tips to Prevent Food Cravings
1) Drink Fresh Water
There are a lot of articles around today stating that hunger and thirst are often confused in the brain. How scientifically true this is, is debatable.
However, according to one piece of medical research, often food and drink are interchangeable. That is there is fluid in a lot of food and energy in a lot of drinks.
Regardless, the number one thing that you can do, when a food craving hits, is to grab yourself a glass of fresh, cool water.
Benefits of Drinking Water to Avoid Food Cravings
- Going to the fridge and pouring yourself a glass of water can be a distraction from that sugared snack you are thinking of
- A glass of water, flavoured with a slice of fresh lemon may well squash those cravings for food
- Studies show that staying well hydrated throughout the day reduces food cravings and hunger. Aim for around 6 glasses of water per day
- Regularly drinking a glass of water will help ease the temptation to go for that sugared soda or calorie-loaded drink.
- Research studies show that drinking 500 MLS of water increases the metabolic rate by 30% in 10 minutes. The reason for this, in part, is that the body needs to warm the water to the body temperature – so drink it ice cold guys.
2) Short bouts of Exercise
Often food cravings are related to certain activities, such as watching TV or relaxing on an evening.
So, similar to dealing with other intense cravings, getting up and doing a little exercise can really help distract from and decrease the craving.
You can go for a brisk walk around the block, or jump up and do one of those boring tasks that are always on the back burner. For example, vigorously clean the windows, or tidy and clean your kitchen cupboards.
Afterwards, have a big glass of ice-cold water and Voila! the craving has passed and you have achieved something into the bargain.
It does not have to be prolonged, extreme exercise. Indeed research shows that a short 10-minute bout of fast walking reduces food cravings. Furthermore, another research study shows that 12 weeks of aerobic exercise decreases cravings for high-fat foods, fast food fats and carbohydrates.
So, grab your jogging bottoms and get active. Adding even one hour of walking per week to your schedule will significantly improve your health.
3) Improve your Emotional Well Being and Reduce Stress
So, working on reducing stress levels can help you with food cravings and thus, weight loss. In addition, other areas of your general health may improve too.
Some Tips to Decrease Stress
- Meditation – learn how to meditate at home or join a group or take a course. Set aside time to practice. Clinically proven to lower stress
- Exercise – see above for our exercise tips
- Yoga or Tai Chi – both clinically proven stress relievers
- Healthy Diet – read on for more diet tips
- Sleep at least 8 hours per night. Set up a regular bedtime and wake-up time and stick to it
- Alcohol and cigarettes – cut down or cut out alcohol and nicotine
- Reduce your caffeine intake. Swap that cappuccino for a lovely cup of green tea
- Treat yourself to a lovely relaxing massage
- Maintain a healthy work/life balance and take time out for yourself
4) Increase your Protein Intake
Well, quite basically, medical studies show that increasing your protein intake reduces food cravings and increases feelings of fullness.
According to the above study, a diet that consists of 25% protein really does reduce hunger and food cravings.
A high-protein diet also led to a reduction in late-night snacking. Furthermore, obsessively thinking about food also reduces with a high protein diet.
HP intake led to greater fullness throughout the day along with reductions in late‐night desire to eat and preoccupation with thoughts of food compared to a normal protein diet.
Also, a lot of research suggests that a higher protein diet may increase your metabolic rate and lead to an increase in weight loss.
So grab that high-protein shake and stop those food cravings.
5) Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Getting a good nights sleep is essential for optimal bodily functions, but especially weight loss.
Officially, sleep deprivation begins when you have less than 7 hours of sleep per night. In addition, studies show that sleep deprivation increases food cravings.
The optimum amount of sleep for weight loss, according to the Sleep Foundation, appears to be around 7 to 9 hours per night.
According to studies, when you have less than 7 hours of sleep per night, the hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin are affected.
Now, ghrelin tells the body that it is hungry and leptin plays a role in telling the brain when we have had enough food.
Sleep deprivation causes an increase in ghrelin and a decrease in leptin which may well lead to food cravings and an increase in hunger.
So, set a bedtime and waking routine and snuggle down for a good night’s sleep.
6) Swap to Healthy Snacks and Avoid Hunger
Allowing yourself to get extremely hungry can actually increase food cravings. If the body is deprived of essential nutrients it will send signals to the brain that you need these.
So, if you are running very low in calories (energy) it makes sense that this can be translated by the body as a need for high-energy foods such as sugar or carbs.
The key is to plan and eat regular, well-balanced healthy meals so that you don’t get too hungry. Also, swap those high sugar or high carb snacks for more healthy snacks with a bit of crunch.
Because food cravings are often linked with a specific texture or taste, eating healthy snacks such as celery sticks or carrots with hummus may well stop those urges.
7) Practice Mindful Eating
Yes, this is all well and good but what exactly is mindful eating? Well, it is adopting a meditative way of thinking in relation to food.
Research suggests that using this approach has a positive impact on reducing food cravings.
So, like a lot of habitual behaviors, you return home from work and settle on the couch to watch some TV. This TV watching triggers an urge for you to eat chocolate because that is what you usually do.
This thought, in turn, will produce cravings for chocolate, possibly with mouth-watering and images of the chocolate and taste. Before you know it, you have eaten a whole bar and are feeling regretful.
Mindfulness, however, focuses on being more aware of your mental patterns and recognising that the thought (of chocolate) is merely a temporary mental process. You can recognise the thought and then simply let it pass. This is known as ‘decentering’
The second part of mindful eating is similar, in that you must become very aware of the sensations and flavors in the very act of eating, rather than mindlessly chomping away.
There is a lot more on mindful eating that is too in-depth to cover here but changing your mental attitude to food, food choices, shopping and eating can lead to a significant reduction in food cravings.
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