Two of the most commonly asked questions that I get as a dietitian are… “How can I beat cravings for sugary/fattyfood?” and “How can I stop over-eating?”. Food cravings can happen for a number of reasons, and the key isn’t to rely on will power in order to beat them, but to find out the cause of them and prevent them from ever happening.
The top causes of food cravings are:
1) Lack of Sleep. Not getting enough shut-eye can cause cravings for foods that are high in energy i.e. fatty and sugary foods, so if you’re trying to lose weight then aim for at least 7 hours of sleep a night. Sleep helps to regulate our hunger hormones, leaving you more in control of your food choices the following day. If you can, try going to sleep and waking up at similar times each night/morning so that your body gets into a routine.
2) Dehydration. Your brain is clever, but it’s not that clever. Thirst and hunger can often be confused, so the next time that you’re craving food try having a glass of water, tea or coffee first. Stay hydrated throughout the day to be more in tune with your hunger signals.
3) Stomach Hunger. Losing weight isn’t about starving yourself; it’s about eating fewer calories than what you are burning off. Regular meals are essential to control hunger levels and if you know that you get peckish in between then plan for this by having healthy snacks such as fruit to hand or have more protein and fibre at your meals e.g. lentils/beans/chickpeas and make sure that your carbs are low GI i.e. swap jacket potato for sweet potato and use basmati rice (these changes will help to keep you fuller for longer!).
4) Head Hunger. Head hunger refers to those ‘I feel peckish’ moments, when you know you’ve just eaten. Boredom can be a trigger for head hunger and the best way to avoid it is to keep your hands busy and keep distracted. Have a list of things stuck on your fridge door that you could be doing instead of mindlessly munching.
5) The ‘See Food Diet’. It takes a heck of a lot more will-power to not eat the biscuits in the biscuit tin on the kitchen top than it is to eat the biscuits that are on sale in the shop down the road. You get my point.. if we see food then we may automatically begin to think about it and crave it. If you know that you tend to eat the food that you see, make sure to keep high fat/sugar food out of sight (or better still, not in the house at all!) and put healthy, easy to eat foods in site i.e. keep a bowl of fresh fruit out on the side and have healthy snacks at the front of your cupboards or fridge.
I originally wrote this article for a healthy living magazine but I wanted to blog it to help my followers prevent ‘food cravings’ too!