Cravings and How to Beat Them
Wouldn’t life be simpler
if instead of craving cakes and chocolate your body
cried out for lettuce?
But unless you’re Bugs Bunny, that’s
never going to happen.
The good news is that there are
ways to control your cravings so they don’t lead
to unhealthy eating habits and an expanding waistline.
Prevention is better than a cure
At 10 am it’s chocolate, by noon it’s KFC,
at 3 pm you can’t live without that Coke, and by
9 pm you’re spoon-deep in a tub of ice cream. Sound
too familiar? If you feel like you’re constantly
craving one food or another, it’s very likely that
you’re simply not eating properly.
First, you may just be hungry.
Do you get enough calories from protein, healthy fats
and carbohydrates? Do you eat at fairly regular intervals?
When you’re hungry,
you’re more likely to crave high-calorie, high-fat
foods. Cravings are also often related to dips in blood
sugar levels, which happen when you don’t eat regularly
enough. If you experience a dip in blood sugar, you’re
likely to look for a quick fix in the form of chocolate
or other sweet treat.
Eating regular, well-balanced meals, with plenty of
low-fat protein (eggs, fish, lean meat, legumes, leafy
greens) will ensure that your blood sugar levels are
stable and that you are getting the calories your body
requires throughout the day. This can make a huge difference
to getting your cravings under control.
Smart snacking on fruit, nuts, seeds (pumpkin, sunflower
etc.) chopped vegetables, homemade soup, yoghurt or low-fat
cheese will also help you prevent a mid-afternoon blood-sugar
slump and the cravings that accompany it.
Also keep in mind that lack of
certain nutrients can lead to cravings. For example,
lack of protein may cause you to crave ice cream, lack
of carbohydrates may cause you to crave fries, and
so on. The same goes for micronutrients – chocolate
contains zinc and magnesium, so your afternoon Hershey’s
bar may simply be satisfying a physiological need for
more broccoli. Although if you’re craving chocolate,
sometimes no other food will hit the spot – there’s
a reason Cadbury doesn’t make a broccoli bar!
No “no-no” foods
people want to lose weight or change their eating habits,
they often deem certain foods “forbidden”.
This may seem noble, but in reality it’s just
a set-up for cravings. Saying “I’m never
going to eat any chocolate at all” is a sure-fire
way to end up craving it a week later. It’s better
to have the occasional, planned treat than to deny
yourself a food altogether.
Restricting a certain food group,
such as carbohydrates, also pretty much gurantees a
craving. For example, if you eliminate bread from your
diet for an extended period of time, it's bread that
you’re most likely to
Staying interested in what you’re
eating is key to preventing cravings. A monotonous,
boring diet in which you only eat certain foods will
inevitably lead to cravings.
A little satisfaction
If you can’t prevent it, often the best way to
beat a craving is actually to satisfy it – a little.
The problem with many cravings
is that they get out of control when you don’t satisfy them initially.
For that reason, it’s best not to eat "around" the
food you are craving. If you really feel like having
a piece of chocolate, have it. Don't try to substitute
it with a range of other foods if you think you'll end
up eating the chocolate anyway. If you obsessively avoid
the food you’re craving, you’re also far
more likely to binge on it eventually than you would
if you had a small amount when you first crave it. But
be warned, this advice can be dangerous if you ignore
the “a little” part. If you know you can’t
stop at a little, it’s best not to start at all.
If you are facing a craving that a small portion won't
fix, try putting the 'Four Ds' into practice. This is
a system used in smoking-cessation programs to help smokers
relieve the need for a cigarette, even when they're desperate.
- Delay for a few minutes and the urge
- Drink water
- Deep breathe
- Do something else to take
your mind off eating
Seeking solace in a hamburger?
Cravings are not just physiological – emotions
can also play a huge part in why you crave the foods
It’s easy to associate certain foods with certain
times or places that make you feel soothed or comforted.
These associations can be directly related to your cravings.
For example, if you're tired or ill, you may crave chicken
soup like your Mum used to make. If you’re lonely,
you might crave ice cream because that’s what your
parents gave you to cheer you up when you were a child.
In times like these, it's important to focus on the nurturing
that your body really needs. For instance, do you need
a break? More rest? More nutrients?
There is a very fine line between what can be called
a craving and what may be an episode of emotional eating.
Next time you experience a craving, ask yourself if it
has any emotional motivation.
It might be hard to admit to yourself that you're reaching
for food to help make you feel better, and even harder
to face and deal with the stress and emotions that lead
you to seek comfort from food in the first place. But
if you can establish a connection between a craving and
an emotional need, you can learn to satisfy the emotional
need instead of numbing it with food.
Before you go craving mad
Everybody experiences cravings
now and then, whether for physical, emotional or any
other reasons. It’s
nothing to stress about and nothing to feel guilty over.
The most important thing to remember when dealing with
cravings is not to let them get out of control – learn
to recognise what’s going on with your cravings
at a physical and an emotional level, and try to prevent
the craving if you can. If you can’t prevent it,
remember that sometimes satisfying your craving a little,
before you go craving mad, is the best way to respond.
Reproduced with permission from CalorieKing.com.au. All material copyright CalorieKing.com.au