Food cravings are evil. They mess with your diet. They mess with your mind and sometimes can be strong enough to make you go mental. Figuratively speaking, of course. Often than not, most diets restrict some type of food or macronutrient. Completely throwing your body off balance as it tries to adjust to the new diet.
Whether you’re craving salty snacks or sweet candies, it can get very intense. But it’s not always the salt or sugar the only culprits, you can have other types of food cravings, everything from red meat to cheese and even ice cubes.
I don’t know about you, but when certain food cravings strike, I can feel the weakness as I edge closer to snack cupboards. And then if I ever give in I feel regret and justify my actions by thinking “That’s why I workout so that I could enjoy this.” Then it’s all good. But in reality, imagine how much further along we’d be if we didn’t give into any food cravings?
A big chunk of our diet success depends on our ability to manage and fight food cravings.
What causes food cravings
Onset of food cravings can fall into many categories.
To satisfy emotional needs
Ever had a bad day? Maybe you just broke up with your boyfriend or girlfriend? How about a stressful day at work? Does ice cream look comforting? That’s my achilles heel. I always go for ice cream, or cookies if the day was more stressful than usual. That’s emotional eating. We’re not even hungry. We just turn to food for comfort.
Not drinking enough water can send false signals to the brain that you’re hungry. Be sure to drink an adequate amount of water. But not too much as an excess of water can also cause more cravings and bloating.
There’s a lot of blog posts and infographics flying around on the net about cravings being indicators of certain nutritional deficiencies. Here’s an example. This may not be completely responsible for your cravings lately, unless you’re clinically deficient in specific nutrient due to extreme dieting, intense workout regimen or are in starvation mode. Most of the cravings arise from our environmental and psychological cues. However, there’s also a hormonal link.
In an original article ‘Chocolate: Food or Drug? from the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, authors reviewed literature on chocolate cravings. According to their findings: “Chocolate cravings are often episodic and fluctuate with hormonal changes just before and during the menses, which suggests a hormonal link and confirms the assumed gender-specific nature of chocolate cravings.” Hormonal imbalance can also cause other cravings.
This is something you can’t really do much about. It’s you, it’s how you’re built, it’s your blueprint. Some people will always have certain food preferences because of their DNA. The link between specific food preferences was recently presented in a European genetics study.
Have you ever sat down in front of a TV and felt something was missing? What about after an epic meal of steak and baked potato? During TV watching time I crave salty snacks. After a big meal loaded with protein and starch I crave ice cream, even though I’m full. I’m sure other causes are kicking in too, but I’ve had ice cream so many times after big meals, that now I crave it. Our habits subconsciously dictate what we do next and trigger cravings.
No single cause of food craving can be singled out. They all work together to elicit food cravings.
How to stop food cravings
There’s quite a bit of research and strategies out there to help you curb your cravings. Not all going to work. Some are easier than other but it is up to you to experiment and see what’s most effective.
One of the best ways I stop my craving (yes, personal trainers do get cravings) is by grabbing a glass of water and distracting myself with something else. I’ll usually start writing a blog post, watch a tutorial or play some Call of Duty or Civ 5.
Distracting yourself is one of the most suggested methods. The key is to become good at identifying when you’re starting to crave something. As soon as you catch it, distract yourself and get away as far as possible from temptation.
Learn to become more aware and identify the cues. Listen to your body and ask yourself, am I really hungry? Why am I craving this?
Prevent food craving triggers
If you know what situations, conditions or foods that cause unnecessary cravings be aware, plan for them and try to avoid them.
Get rid of temptation
I found this to be a very effective strategy for myself and many of my clients. If your cupboards are empty of junk food and other temptations you’re not going to go out of your way to pick up a box of Oreos. On your next grocery shopping trip skip the snack isle.
Brush your teeth
The act of brushing your teeth incentiveses your mind to keep your mouth clean. Try this as soon as you get a craving for something.
Staying healthy isnt about just exercising and eating right, it’s also about learning to regulate and control your eating habits to ensure a successful path to your fitness goals.
When you have cravings, what do you do to stop them?