Okay, so you’re leaving work and you’ve had a long day. For some reason, nothing seemed to go quite right today. You skipped lunch because you desperately needed to complete a project by the end of the day. Now you’re finally leaving work — feeling tired, a tad bit anxious and extremely hungry.
Stopped at a light on your drive home, you look to your right and the answer to your nightmare-of-a-day appears: Sunshine Donut shop. And yes, your favorite cinnamon roll is calling your name (more like screaming it!). What do you do? Do you give in to your craving or opt for something healthier?
Food-specific cravings are common. Studies show that most women admit to having a food craving at least once every two to three months or more. In reality, the word craving is, harmless but the truth is that your reaction to food cravings and urges can wreak havoc on your efforts to maintain or lose weight.
Research has shown that food cravings are fueled by chemicals in the brain that provide a rush of euphoria when you eat specific types of food. As a result, it’s easy to desire this feeling over and over.
Identifying the root(s) of your cravings can help you get a grip on them. Even the most disciplined person can potentially fall prey to cravings when they let their guard down. Moments in which we’re prone to dietary destruction can also derail progress toward weight loss and health goals. Stay on track with your fitness and health goals with these sure-fire craving crusher tips.
1. Identify craving cues. Oftentimes, cravings culminate from a food/event association. For instance, if you’ve always associated dinner with dessert, then you’ll be more inclined to crave something sweet after dinner. The cue sparks your brain’s pleasure center and causes a release of dopamine, which urges you to seek out the food you’re craving. Cravings can also increase feelings of hunger.
The fix? Avoid having cravings at your fingertips. Keep healthier options available. Love salt? Elect for sea salt snacks. Want something sugary? Try something naturally sweetened like your favorite fruit, or granola. Do you love crunchy snacks? Chomp on some raw veggies like carrots and celery with hummus.
2. Avoid skipping meals. One of the biggest craving triggers is skipping meals. Establish a regular eating schedule, including breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a couple healthy, yet filling, snacks. You’ll find yourself craving less as you fill up on more. Starving your body only causes it to go into a panic/survival mode, which helps activate those meddlesome cravings.
3. Take a snip of your snack. Sometimes it’s okay to give in — in moderation. The truth is, there will be times those healthy substitutes won’t satisfy your craving. When that occurs, give yourself permission to have a small portion of your favorite food and enjoy that pint-sized portion to the fullest. No need to obsess over what you can’t have. Prevent a potential binge attack and relish a smaller portion of your favorite snack.
4. Get a grip on stress. Tension increases the likelihood you’ll give in to food cravings. Most cravings are also associated with comfort, providing a false sense that food is alleviating a problem. Instead, address your problems and concerns head-on by going to counseling, talking to a friend, processing or journaling.
Additionally, incorporating a regular exercise routine into your life is a highly effective way to manage stress and anxiety. Whatever you do, don’t try to fix problems by consuming food, unnecessarily. Besides providing a quick “feeling fix,” it doesn’t work!
5. Avoid negative self-talk. For example: “I better just get used to this fat belly because I can’t seem to give up my daily doughnut craving.”
Tell yourself that you’re going to gain control of your eating, then exercise that control and watch the results begin. Remind yourself that you control your cravings — they do not control you. It’s easy to fuel cravings with our words and mindset. Re-framing your thoughts and words, as well as practicing healthy eating habits, can help you keep unhealthy cravings at bay.