The current pandemic and stay-at-home orders have made it particularly difficult to refrain from succumbing to cravings.
Nutrition experts at Huel, the world’s best-selling complete nutrition brand, have put together a list of a few practical tips to help us curb our cravings.
We’ve all felt hunger. This physiological mechanism is designed to tell us when we need to have sustenance. However, in the Western world, food is in plentiful supply all around us, and our interpretation of hunger has become confused.
Broadly speaking, hunger can be viewed in two ways.
Firstly, physiological, also known as stomach or true hunger, is where you are genuinely hungry because you feel low in energy and haven’t eaten for a long time. In other words, your body needs food. Secondly, psychological, or mouth hunger, is where you fancy something to eat. This is when you have a craving.
What are cravings?
Cravings can lead to a preoccupation with food. We want food, especially ‘bad’ food, more than we did before. When we restrict ourselves from eating the food we desire, it can have a bad effect on our mood. This increases temptation, and when we then eat something we are craving, we enjoy it even more.
This can cause a negative cycle of mood changes that leads us to want to snack more, and then we recognize the intense pleasure next time we have a craving. Cravings become harder to curb.
The trap continues. Just thinking about food triggers the behavior you want to avoid. It is particularly hard as food is constantly around us, especially as we are spending more time than ever at home. It is an important part of our social lives, we see advertisements for tasty food everywhere, and it is a frequent topic of conversation. None of this is helped when we are always around family, who may sometimes be snacking around us when we are trying not to think about food.
Harder still, we often use food as a reward. We treat ourselves, and junk food is a frequent reward of choice!
How to curb cravings
The nutrition team at Huel has put together 11 practical tips to help us curb our cravings.
As we take control of our cravings, over time, we will realize that we don’t actually need the food that we are craving. It’s just a mindset. The frequency, duration and intensity of the cravings will soon diminish.
- Eat regular meals and stick to a schedule
Get into the habit of not skipping meals, even if you are trying to be ‘good,’ or because you feel guilty about what you ate earlier.
- Listen to your body
Eat regularly, and only when you are genuinely hungry. Learn the difference between physiological and psychological hunger.
- Identify what is causing your cravings
Keep a food and feelings diary by jotting down what you eat and when, and how you feel before and afterwards. This may help you identify triggers and problematic times of the day, and to recognize if you are snacking for comfort, boredom or loneliness.
- Find a hobby or interest
If you are snacking for comfort, eating will not make the problem go away. Do something to occupy yourself to avoid nibbling. Try chatting with a friend, exercising, watching a movie, or having a relaxing bath, for example.
- Make eating a separate activity
Many people snack while doing certain things, and consequently, the activity then becomes a signal for a craving. For example, watching TV and snacking, eating popcorn at the movies. To curb this, only eat at mealtimes, get out of the habit of eating while watching TV, and when at home, confine eating to the kitchen or dining room.
- Have regular drinks
This will help to keep you feeling full. Hot drinks are particularly useful as hot liquids empty from the stomach slower than cooler ones, and occasional sugar-free sodas can help satisfy your taste buds.
- Fight the urge to eat
If you get the urge to eat, look at the time and wait half an hour before having something.
- Brush your teeth or use minty mouthwash after meals
The minty taste will help curb cravings. This is especially useful after your evening meal, as we often associate cleaning our teeth with the last thing we do for the day.
- Adopt an eating strategy to help with discipline and to maintain a routine
For example, some people find intermittent fasting useful as it minimizes the window for permitted eating.
- Snack sensibly
Fruit and berries are a great choice and will help curb sweet cravings. Sugar-free jello is also a great snack.
- Don’t let a slip-up lead to more
If you do succumb to a craving, avoid the mindset “now that I’ve eaten that, I may as well make the most of it.”