Craving food is a normal human experience. According to The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, a food craving is defined as, “a strong desire to eat”. Although the definition seems simple, food cravings are actually incredibly complex and can be experienced in a number of different ways. Fighting off strong food urges is something 90% of the population encounter everyday. It can be a challenging task, but it is possible to control your cravings. Below are 8 ways to help you manage your cravings and reduce the urge to eat unhealthy foods.
- Drink More Water
A lot of the time, when you feel an overwhelming urge to eat something salty or sweet, you aren’t really hungry- you’re just thirsty! It’s normal for your body to confuse hunger with thirst. Next time you are met with an intense food craving, try drinking a big glass of water. After a few minutes, you may realize your urges disappear. Drinking enough water each day has many other health benefits as well, including aiding in weight loss.
- Eat More Protein
Protein is a macronutrient that you should be consuming every day. Sadly, many people don’t eat enough protein. Eating too small of an amount of protein each day has a number of negative health effects on the body, including intensifying urges to eat unhealthy foods. When you eat enough protein, your body will feel more satisfied and stay fuller for longer. Try adding a protein shake into your every day diet to help curve any unwanted cravings.
- Acknowledge & Accept Your Cravings
If you are like most people, when you crave something that isn’t the healthiest, you instantly feel shame, guilt, and/or frustration. You may try to suppress your cravings and pretend they aren’t there, but sadly, trying to ignore your cravings isn’t going to help. Instead, I encourage you to acknowledge your cravings and accept that they are a part of a normal human experience. Many studies have shown that if you can do this, you will likely resist and overcome your food urges. Accepting your cravings may even help you develop better strategies for when urges do arise. Instead of giving into hankerings try acknowledging them when they come up, and then try taking a step outside, chewing sugar free gum, or taking a sip of water instead.
- Avoid Skipping Meals
When you skip a meal and allow your body to drop into “starvation mode” you are more likely to consume foods that are unhealthy, calorically dense, and/or high in sugar content. The more you skip meals, the more your body will crave unwholesome foods. If you allow hunger cues to get too strong, you will likely lack control over what you end up eating to end the feeling of hunger. This can cause you to make poor food decisions that may lead to binge eating or weight gain. Instead of skipping a meal, grab a healthy snack such as an avocado, an apple, or some veggies and hummus. Not only will you lessen your cravings, but you will give your body the proper nutrients it needs to stay healthy and feel energized throughout the day!
- Take Steps To Reduce Stress
We’ve all heard of, or have personally experienced, “stress eating”. Many studies have shown, when you are overly stressed, you may crave food more easily and more often. Stress may be labeled as a psychological issue, but it directly impacts your body and physiological health. Chronic stress can cause unwanted cravings for hyperpalatable foods which ultimately can increase your risk of a number of metabolic diseases and obesity. A great way to reduce your stress is to eat nutrient-dense foods, get plenty of physical exercise each week, and get at least 8 hours of sleep each night.
- Get Enough Sleep
Getting a good night’s rest is more important than you may know. Numerous studies prove that sleep deprivation is closely related to making poor diet choices, heighting food cravings, and increasing your risk of health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and depression. Not only that, but sleep deprivation also affects your hormones throughout the day. This can throw off your appetite regulation and cause you to crave sugary or salty foods that are calorically dense. Do your best to go to bed at a reasonable hour and get at least 8 hours of sleep each night.
- Eat Proper Nutrition
When you eat foods that are nutrient-dense, it promotes feelings of fullness, stabilizes your blood sugar, and keeps your cravings in check. It’s important to incorporate all 3 macronutrients (fats, carbs, and proteins) into your diet. Research shows that consuming a high protein diet improves your ability to control your appetite and satiety levels, reduces the activity in the part of your brain that is associated with food carvings, and lowers unhealthy snacking in the evenings. Eating an appropriate amount of carbohydrates will help you balance out your energy levels, reduce hyperpalatable cravings, and support important bodily functions. Consuming healthy fats keeps you feeling fuller for longer, lowers your risk of heart disease, and contributes to maintaining good brain and body cell health. These benefits all contribute to significant improvements in body weight, food intake, and body composition.
- Avoid Restrictive Diets
If you completely cut a food out of your diet that you were eating practically every day, your body is going to drastically crave it when it’s gone. The best approach is to subtly add healthier, more nutritious foods into your diet and make your diet as well rounded as possible. Start by slowly eating less of particular foods rather than cutting them out completely. When you develop eating patterns that nourish your body instead of drain it, you will ultimately reduce strong food cravings and still be able to enjoy your favorite foods on occasion.
-Danielle Lasky CPT, Zero Doubt Club