A sudden yearning for a gooey grilled cheese sandwich or a sinful square or three of chocolate that you just can't resist ... we’ve all been there. But if you’re trying to stay healthy or lose weight, these cravings can be your downfall. So is there a way you can actually cut those cravings and stay strong?
In the battle of the bulge or the quest for fitness, there is little wiggle room for weakness. Food cravings rear their unwelcome head far too often, and your body yearns for that wicked mouthful it is now being denied. Thankfully, you are not alone. Which is why so much research has gone into the science behind cravings and on how cravings can be reduced. So take heart, because you may actually be able to beat those cravings with the help of these simple tips.
When it comes to cravings, the imagery you visualize before you indulge could play a key role. One study of undergraduate students confirmed that visual imagery was heavily involved in craving intensity. The more vivid your visualization of the food you craved, the more intense the craving. The researchers suggested using cognitive techniques to cut how vivid your visualization was, to reduce cravings.1 A separate study that employed mindfulness-based strategies in a group of obese and overweight adults found that these methods helped reduce the cravings in the test subjects.2
Cut That Stress
Stress-linked cravings are familiar to most of us. An especially tough day at work is also usually one where you call in for pizza or dig into a tub of ice cream as an instant pick-me-up. Research confirms what we’ve always suspected. Hyperpalatable foods that are high in fat and sugar are addictive, and stress is one of the key factors in your developing a taste or craving for them.3 Stressed women in particular tend to crave sweets more than men.4 It follows then that cutting out stress could also help cut your cravings.
Chew Some Gum
Chewing gum could be your ally in fighting food cravings. Especially if your weakness is snack foods or sweets. Research confirms this, so keep a pack of sugar-free gum handy and you could beat that next craving when it strikes. Some say that by chewing the gum you’re actually tricking your mind into believing it is satisfied.5 If you’re not much of a gum chewer, try brushing your teeth or gargling with mouthwash instead. While there may not be a whole lot of studies on this trick, it has worked for plenty of people. And with little risk involved, if it doesn’t work for you, at least you’ll have cleaner teeth!
Don’t Let Yourself Get Famished
If you eat a whole lot of high sugar or high glycemic index foods, your body will burn through them really quickly, leaving you hungry in no time. If it isn’t mealtime and you’re hungry, chances are you’ll reach for one of your food cravings – which in all likelihood isn’t good for you. Instead, tank up on protein like eggs, lean meat like fish or chicken, or lentils that keep you satiated longer.6 Get your carbs from fiber-rich fruit and veggies like raspberries, guavas, artichokes, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts, which keep you feeling full and are good for your body too courtesy all those vitamins and minerals.7
Power Up Your Anti-Craving Battle With Spinach
Spinach extracts may be the new line of defense against food cravings. These green plant extracts work by boosting the amount of GLP-1 your body releases after a meal. This in turn cuts your craving for chocolate and sweets. A three-month long study of overweight women who were given 5 gm of spinach extract daily for the entire duration found that this supplement cut high sugar and chocolate cravings by between 87 and 95 percent.8
Skimp on your sleep and you run the risk of giving your cravings the fodder they need to get worse. If you get insufficient sleep, your dietary restraint is likely to reduce, making you prone to indulging those cravings when they strike. When you’re sleep-deprived, your intake outstrips the actual physiological energy needs of your body – basically to keep you awake in the face of insufficient sleep. In other words, if you’re sleepy and have food handy, when a craving strikes you may actually eat more than you need to keep yourself awake.9
Cut Off Access To The Food
A simple and utterly unscientific – yet very effective – way to manage a food craving is to simply prevent access to these foods. Don’t stock salty or sugary snacks, sodas, or ice cream at home. So when that craving strikes, you won’t be able to indulge even if your resolve weakens. Instead, keep plenty of fresh fruit, pre-cut vegetable crudites and low-fat yogurt or dairy-free dips, or nuts to nibble on for those hunger pangs. You may even knock off a few pounds, and your body will thank you for it.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Tiggemann, Marika, and Eva Kemps. “The phenomenology of food cravings: the role of mental imagery.” Appetite 45, no. 3 (2005): 305-313.|
|2.||↑||Alberts, Hugo JEM, Sandra Mulkens, Maud Smeets, and Roy Thewissen. “Coping with food cravings. Investigating the potential of a mindfulness-based intervention.” Appetite 55, no. 1 (2010): 160-163.|
|3.||↑||Yau, Yvonne HC, and Marc N. Potenza. “Stress and eating behaviors.” Minerva endocrinologica 38, no. 3 (2013): 255.|
|4.||↑||Macedo, Danielle Marques, and Rosa Wanda Diez-Garcia. “Sweet craving and ghrelin and leptin levels in women during stress.” Appetite 80 (2014): 264-270.|
|5.||↑||Hetherington, Marion M., and Emma Boyland. “Short-term effects of chewing gum on snack intake and appetite.” Appetite 48, no. 3 (2007): 397-401.|
|6.||↑||Paddon-Jones, Douglas, Eric Westman, Richard D. Mattes, Robert R. Wolfe, Arne Astrup, and Margriet Westerterp-Plantenga. “Protein, weight management, and satiety.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 87, no. 5 (2008): 1558S-1561S.|
|7.||↑||Slavin, J., and H. Green. “Dietary fibre and satiety.” Nutrition Bulletin 32, no. s1 (2007): 32-42.|
|8.||↑||Montelius, Caroline, Daniel Erlandsson, Egzona Vitija, Eva-Lena Stenblom, Emil Egecioglu, and Charlotte Erlanson-Albertsson. “Body weight loss, reduced urge for palatable food and increased release of GLP-1 through daily supplementation with green-plant membranes for three months in overweight women.” Appetite 81 (2014): 295-304.|
|9.||↑||Markwald, Rachel R., Edward L. Melanson, Mark R. Smith, Janine Higgins, Leigh Perreault, Robert H. Eckel, and Kenneth P. Wright. “Impact of insufficient sleep on total daily energy expenditure, food intake, and weight gain.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110, no. 14 (2013): 5695-5700.|