Food cravings are a nightmare for many, especially for weight watchers or dieters who’re trying to lose weight. Cravings are an intense and uncontrollable desire for specific foods, mainly rich in sugar, and most of the time, it’s for food rich in fats. It is always easy to lose weight than maintaining it. And cravings can thus increase both of your problems. One of losing weight, cravings come with extra calories too. And also, these cravings make it difficult to maintain weight. But, you’re not alone; it is very common, and more than 90 percent of the population experience such strong desires for food, also known as cravings. So, these short-term pleasures through cravings can keep you a lot far from your health goals. And, this makes it necessary to understand what food cravings are, why they happen, and how to deal with them?
Why do we have food cravings?
The reasons mentioned here vary from person to person.
- Dehydration: Cravings increase when you’re dehydrated, and the brain can’t differentiate well between hunger and thirst as the same part of your brain is responsible for recognizing both. And, these mixed signals increase your chances of grabbing something to eat. Dehydration manifests itself as hunger. So, when you feel like having something, have a glass of water first and wait for some time.
- Hormonal changes: These changes are Probably easier to deal with and occur for girls, mainly during pregnancy, periods, or menopause. And, the fluctuating levels of testosterone and estrogen can increase cravings. These cravings can sometimes get difficult to control, so it is better to substitute them with healthier alternatives.
- Emotional Issues: A bad day at work or college, a bad exam, an unhappy relationship, or just anything that makes you feel low. Different ways are there to respond to such emotions as depression, which decreases serotonin levels, which can cause cravings.
- Nutritional deficiencies: Our body needs proper nourishment to function well. And that comes from the appropriate intake of macronutrients and micronutrients. If your body doesn’t get adequate nutrition, it will send signals in the form of cravings. So, nutrition deficiencies can cause food cravings.
- Dieting: With plenty of diets available on the internet, people usually go after crash diets to reach their health goals. These crash diets being restrictive, would demand you to leave certain food groups. So, these diet-induced cravings can be because of nutritional deficiencies or psychological issues. Your desire will increase for the avoided food.
How to avoid cravings?
Studies also suggest that craving can be unlearned. So, let’s learn some ways to deal with cravings.
- Journalling: Yes, journaling has the potential to deal with cravings. Some of the cravings are because of emotional issues, and many people find it difficult to control themselves. So, journaling can be the best way to deal with your emotions well and reduce your craving if it arises from emotional issues. Express yourself well. Try to stay stress-free, as, according to a study, chronic stress is associated with more food cravings. Try out different ways to deal with your emotions.
- Drink water: Water has the potential to solve many health problems. Here drinking an adequate amount of water can help you reduce cravings. Hunger and thirst produce very similar signals, so the chances of grabbing something to eat increase when you’re thirsty. Drink water throughout the day and whenever you get cravings, drink water first and wait for some time.
- Out of sight and out of mind: You are less likely to crave something when you can’t see it. And, even if you start craving, your chances of eating extra still decrease as it will be away from your reach, and you’ll end up ignoring that craving. And this practice will surely help you establish healthy habits. So, don’t store the things you crave in bulk.
- Enjoy small treats: With increasing fuzz about crash diets/ fad diets, people often look for the simplest way to lose weight. And, this is the main reason why cravings increase. So, not restricting yourself to a particular food group and having a good amount of macronutrients and micronutrients can help you nourish well. Also, a cheat meal once a week can be a good idea to reduce cravings. Fix a day and enjoy your favorite food. Save up some calories and enjoy your food.
- Have enough protein: Protein is the essential nutrient for weight loss, muscle building, reducing appetite, etc. So, make sure you have an adequate amount of protein throughout the day. A protein-rich diet can reduce cravings and hunger pangs by keeping you full for longer.
- Avoid hunger to lose weight: It is a prevalent blunder which people make on their weight loss journey. Not eating enough and keeping yourself deprived of food to lose weight will make you crave more. Strong feelings of hunger can lead you to pick calorie-dense food. You might feel like you haven’t eaten enough, so you should reward yourself with a big-fat meal, but this has its consequence. So, have protein-rich meals throughout the day and nourish your body well.
- Stay patient: Don’t run immediately towards food when you have a craving. Stay patient and wait for some time. And, you will notice that it will vanish if you don’t entertain it. But, this needs practice, and you might feel a little discomfort initially but will learn slowly.
- Divert your mind: Cravings can easily fool you and will always create hurdles in your health goals. Engage yourself in other fun activities like exercising, dancing, listening to songs, etc. It will vanish in some time, and if you choose to exercise, you might not want to go your hard work in vain. So, why not indulge in other fun activities.
- Store healthy substitutes: We understand how challenging it is to change our habits, but they are not impossible, and you can learn them quickly. Better healthy substitutes can help satisfy your craving to some extent. For example, if you crave sweets, you can have yogurt, fruits, etc. They can help you learn healthy eating habits. There are many brands that can help you choose better healthy snacks for yourself.
- Manage your sleep: Improper sleep has the potential to impact your food habits also. A lack of sleep can increase ghrelin levels and decrease leptin levels, leading to increased hunger and appetite. And, also if you’re the one who loves staying awake at night, watching series, movies, studying, etc., then your chances of overeating and craving increase as you’ll stay awake for a longer time. Sleep well at night and enjoy the next day.