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How to Overcome Food Cravings
How to Overcome Food Cravings

Overcoming Food Cravings for Weight Loss

Food cravings are the worst enemy of many dieters. Food cravings are defined as uncontrollable or intense desires for certain foods. These desires are stronger than the normal desire for food that is typically associated with hunger. Food cravings don’t just get in the way of losing weight, but also keeping it off, inhibiting weight loss efforts and derailing diet plans.

If you struggle with food cravings, know that you are not alone. In fact, over 50% of people experience food cravings on a regular basis.

The types of food craved by people with food cravings varies, but most people crave foods that are unhealthy (especially in excess), including salty and sweet foods, as well as foods that are high in carbohydrates.

Woman Eating Pizza

What Causes Food Cravings?

There is a bit of controversy about why people get food cravings. Some experts believe that the associated food pangs are physiological, stating that our bodies crave what they need. For example, if a person craves salty potato chips, some experts say they are deficient in sodium. People may also crave comfort foods to decrease stress or anxiety.

Hormones can also play a role in food cravings. Hormones such as ghrelin, leptin and others in the body can impact how we feel about hunger. Researchers continue to work to determine whether hormones can be changed in our bodies to help us deal with hunger and cravings.

Some experts argue the opposite point, stating that food cravings are not much more than a function of habit. If a person has developed a habit of eating food when they are bored, they are more inclined to crave foods during periods of boredom or to procrastinate by eating.

Dehydration can also play a part in the development of food cravings, according to health and fitness experts.

Ways to Overcome Food Cravings

To keep food cravings at bay, try the following tips:

1. Drink water

If you suddenly feel an urge to eat unhealthy foods, grab a large glass of water and drink it, then wait a few minutes. The food craving may go away because your body may just be thirsty. Additionally, drinking a sufficient amount of water has health benefits, including the ability to reduce appetite as well as aid in losing weight.

2. Eat protein

Protein helps to reduce food cravings, leaving you feeling satisfied and full for longer. This means that eating sufficient protein can help to keep you from overeating while reducing your appetite. One study found that overweight patients who ate a high protein breakfast experienced a significant reduction in food cravings.

Avocado Toast with Egg

3. Meal plan

Another great way to overcome food cravings is to plan meals ahead. When you know what you are going to eat ahead of time, the spontaneity factor is eliminated. You won’t have to worry about what you need to eat for the next meal, thus reducing your temptation to cave into food cravings. You may find that this is the ticket to reducing cravings altogether

4. Reduce stress

Stress has been linked with food cravings and eating behaviors. Women are especially prone to food cravings linked with stress. In fact, women have been shown to experience more food cravings and eat a significantly higher number of calories than women who are not stressed.

Stress can also lead to an increased amount of belly fat. This risk is linked with an increase in a hormone called cortisol, and your cortisol levels increase when you are stressed. Try slowing down, planning ahead and meditating to reduce your stress levels.

5. Get some sleep

The human body is full of hormones that fluctuate regularly throughout the day. Sleep deprivation can disrupt these fluctuations, contributing to food cravings and poor regulation of appetite. People who are sleep deprived are 55% more likely to become obese in comparison to those who get a sufficient amount of sleep. Aim for at least 7 hours or as much as 9 hours of sleep each night.

6. Practice mindful eating

Mindful eating is a type of meditation that teaches you how to become aware of your eating habits, cravings, emotions, and hunger, as well as physical sensations. With mindful eating, you can learn how to distinguish between food cravings and actual hunger within your own body, helping you to reduce eating out of impulse.

Apples and Nuts

Why Do I Crave Salty Foods?

If you regularly crave salty foods, here are a few possible causes and some steps you can take to work through and overcome these cravings:

1. Salt is a habit

You may salt your food before you even taste it or perhaps you add an extra dash of salt to your recipes before serving them. You are now used to salty foods and those that are low-salt taste bland and boring. It may be time to become aware of the salt habits you have developed. Try cooking meals with no salt or reducing the amount a recipe calls for. You can also spritz some fresh lemon over your food for added zing while you are reducing your salt intake. If you need more flavor, only add a tiny pinch of salt to your food.

Salt Shaker

2. You are nutrient deficient

In order for our bodies to work properly, we need minerals including sodium, zinc, calcium and magnesium. Minerals often taste salty, so if your body is craving salty foods, you may just need more minerals. You can increase your mineral intake with a multivitamin or eat more sea vegetables like kelp, nori, and/or dulse, which are each mineral dense.

3. You need water

Sodium helps us to keep water in our bodies to hydrate body cells. When we become dehydrated, salt can help to steady our electrolytes. Alcohol consumption, exercise and a high salt diet can all contribute to dehydration. Be sure to get at least eight glasses of water each day. If you work out, drink more. If you decide to drink alcohol, remember to stay hydrated by drinking a glass of water per alcoholic drink.

4. Your adrenal glands are sluggish

Salt cravings may also point to an issue with your adrenal glands. If these glands are low-functioning, your cortisol and adrenal levels would be low. If you have bags under your eyes and feel sluggish in addition to regularly craving salty foods, consider getting your adrenals and associated hormone levels checked.

5. You need healthy salty snack alternatives

It can be hard to eliminate excess salt from your diet. Rather than satisfying your cravings with a fresh bag of potato chips or an order of french fries, substitute them with healthier options. Instead, reach for some:

– Avocados on sourdough toast

– Nuts

– Cottage cheese on unsalted crackers

– Air popped popcorn

– Hummus and/or peanut butter as a dip with unsalted chips, crackers, or fresh vegetables

Why Do I Crave Sweets?

If you find yourself reaching for donuts, ice cream, or candy on a regular basis, it is safe to say that you struggle with sweet food cravings. Below are 5 ways you can fight off those sweet cravings so you can stay on track with your weight loss diet:

1. Get some minerals

Sweet cravings are also linked with mineral deficiencies, such as zinc, magnesium, chromium and more. If your body (or brain) tells you it needs sugar on a regular basis, consider taking a good multivitamin or get foods into your diet that are rich in these minerals.

2. Eat enough – and enough of the right thing

If you don’t eat enough calories, your body begins searching for fast fuel to catch up. This could be why you crave sugar, which offers quick energy. Instead, eat whole foods that are higher in calories but healthier too, which can help to break your sugar craving cycle once and for all.

Classic Chocolate Cake Donuts

3. Another bad habit

Do you eat sugar because you feel like you need it or because you have eaten it during/after every meal for a long time? When something becomes a habit, we are often unaware of the fact that we actually do it. Break the sweet food habit by opting for a lightly sweetened herbal tea instead of reaching for something filled with sugar. Another option is to brush your teeth when you crave sweets. It sounds crazy but it works. When you want something sweet, grab your toothbrush, slather some toothpaste on it and brush away. The minty flavor may be enough to satisfy your cravings for flavor.

4. Eat enough fat and protein

Eating too much starch without enough fat or protein can also lead to sugar cravings. The calories are quickly absorbed, leaving you feeling dissatisfied. Eat lean protein with that bowl of pasta or add a little olive oil to get some healthy fat. Look for lower carb options as well, such as spaghetti squash in place of pasta.

5. Don’t eat too much salt

Foods high in sodium often lead to sweet cravings too. You may be able to combat your sugar cravings by eating less sodium. Steer clear of processed salty foods and opt for naturally salty foods like olives or cheese.

Why Do I Crave Carbs?

If pasta, bread, bagels or anything else high in carbs is what appeals to you regularly, you may find it harder to stay on track with your weight loss goals. Reducing carbohydrate food cravings can make a big difference when it comes to seeing results with your workout routine. Here are some reasons why you may be dealing with them and how to fight against cravings for carbohydrates.

1. You might be stressed

Uncontrolled stress may be a reason you crave carbs. According to Harvard Health Publishing, numerous animal studies have shown that emotional or physical distress often leads to an increased intake of foods high in carbs. Consider finding the stressors in your life and learning how to mitigate them. Meditation or yoga may help too. Regular exercise and eating healthy and well-balanced meals can also help to reduce your stress, which can help you to lower cravings.

Bread Loaves

2. Lower your carbs to lower your cravings

This might sound strange at first but hear us out. The more carbs you eat, the more you will crave. It is a vicious cycle that can be counteracted by restricting carbs and decreasing insulin levels. You see, when you eat a lot of carbs, your insulin levels increase then drop, resulting in an urge to eat more to bring those levels back up. Instead, look for foods that are high in healthy fats and are filing while avoiding junk food and sweet treats – and all those carbs.

3. Eat the right carbs

Many people who deal with carb cravings give into fast-acting carbs like candy, soda, muffins, French fries, and bagels. These lead to blood sugar spikes, which lead to blood sugar drops, which lead to carb cravings. Opt instead for carbs that are slowly absorbed into your system, like whole grains and fruits and vegetables.

Steak and Eggs Breakfast Bowl

4. Get your protein early in the day

Research has shown that eating a breakfast high in protein can reduce cravings later in the day as well as overeating. We crave carbs when we are really hungry or when we don’t get enough protein. Protein helps to suppress the hunger hormone, ghrelin. Consider eating eggs, quinoa or even fish in the mornings to get plenty of protein to start your day.

5. Honor your craving with something healthy

If you try to ignore your cravings and go hungry, you are in for a miserable ride. Rather, make smart substitutes. Look for new foods and recipes rather than restricting carbs altogether. Eat some nuts instead of pretzels or wrap a burger in lettuce leaves. Eat a salad with your meal to fill up on healthy vegetables rather than carbs or eat cut up vegetables instead of pita with your hummus. Be creative and you won’t have to go hungry.

– Comfort food is comforting to those most stressed: Evidence of the chronic stress response network in high stress women

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3425607/

 

– Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle-aged and older adults

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19661958

 

– Water consumption reduces energy intake at a breakfast meal in obese older adults

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18589036

 

– Protein intake and energy balance

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18448177

 

– A randomized crossover, pilot study examining the effects of a normal protein vs. high protein breakfast on food cravings and reward signals in overweight/obese “breakfast skipping”, late-adolescent girls

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25098557

 

– Stress and eating behaviors

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24126546

 

– Stress may add bite to appetite in women: a laboratory study of stress-induced cortisol and eating behavior

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11070333

 

– Stress-induced cortisol response and fat distribution in women

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16353426

 

– Impact of insufficient sleep on total daily energy expenditure, food intake, and weight gain

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23479616/

 

– Pilot study: Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL): weight, eating behavior, and psychological outcomes associated with a mindfulness-based intervention for people with obesity

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21130363/

 

– Eat a protein-rich breakfast to reduce food cravings, prevent overeating later, researcher finds

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110519113024.htm

Overcoming Food Cravings For Weight Loss

Food cravings are the worst enemy of many dieters. Food cravings are defined as uncontrollable or intense desires for certain foods. These desires are stronger than the normal desire for food that is typically associated with hunger. Food cravings don’t just get in the way of losing weight, but also keeping it off, inhibiting weight loss efforts and derailing diet plans.

If you struggle with food cravings, know that you are not alone. In fact, over 50% of people experience food cravings on a regular basis.

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