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!
I find that having improved my overall diet has seriously reduced my cravings for the bad stuff. But lack of sleep and stress do have an impact as I have found this week but I’m trying to counteract that with making healthy ‘treats’ in advance so I don’t reach for the bad stuff!
You sound like you’re doing fantastic! Yes stress can affect people in different ways – some people eat more (that’s me too!) or some eat less. Being prepared is the best thing you can do. Keep it up! And thanks for your comment 🙂
This post is great, a few months ago I used to have outbursts of eating loads of junk stuff which just left me feeling sluggish and bad about myself but I still carried on, I cleaned my diet up and only eat clean nourishing and healthy foods now which are not at all boring just yummy, I snack on fruit, almonds and nakd bars which are all great, I now feel great in my self have much more energy when I come to exercise, I also can eat a lot more as it’s all healthy and not high in calories and I never get any cravings for anything bad if I get a craving it seems to be for the good stuff e.g fruit, veg 😀
hello! wow you sound like you’ve gone on an amazing journey – what a turn around! I snack on all of those things too, with the key being not to deny yourself anything, and not to label foods as good / bad – if you do you just crave them more! 80/20 rule all the way 🙂 Thanks for your comment!
I`m not over weight but i do find when i am tired i do eat more i stick to nuts when this happens because i always have them on me. I am tired at least 3days of the week and i know nuts are not bad but i would eat a lot more when i am tired is there a different way i can combat this? Should i have coffee to combat the extra eating or is there a different lower cal food i can eat when i feel tired? Sounds strange to ask but i do normally try get good sleep but there days when this just would not happen.
Hi Claire! Nuts are a great snack and if your weight is stable then there’s no need to change them. You could try fruit or any of my suggestions in my ‘Healthy Snack Ideas’ blog post. If I’m tired I do reach for coffee yes, as a temporary fix – perhaps with a spoon full of cocoa and stevia in it too!! I hope this helps 🙂 Nic x
Hey Nicola, great post! Finally someone who provides practical advice rather than to ditch “sugar” all together and stick to “will power.”
So many people don’t realise how much of an important role sleep plays in one’s life. Especially when it comes to weight loss, workout recovery, stress etc.
Hopefully more and more people will come to realise that eating the “good” kind of sugars isn’t going to be bad for you at all and that carbohydrates are not always the devil!
Hi Amy! I totally agree with you, thank you for your lovely comment!
Fantastic site and twitter tips too, thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.
My struggle in healthy weightloss is those ‘hormonal’ days when only chocolate, chocolate and chocolate will do! So I’ll try and implement the tips above to avoid that montht sabotage on my weightloss!
Aw thank you for your lovely comment! I really hope they do help you 🙂 x
Ceilsey – Nic did a great review on Quest bars – I find when Im having a chocolate day, I can replace my normal cadburys fix with a chocolate flavoured quest bar – still feel like im getting a treat and satisfying the craving, but getting protein and less sugar in the process!
Totally agree Lucy!! Thanks for your comment 🙂 xx
Wish Id read this earlier this evening. Really had the munchies tonight and for all the sweet and fatty foods of course! Of well tomorrow’s another day. … Bookmarked now for future reference.
Cheers Olwen! Good luck x
Great advice. Thanks!
No problem Jane 🙂 x