Whether you’re on a diet or trying to lose weight, having cravings is your worst enemy. Comfort food can be difficult to let go, even when you’ve convinced yourself that they’re unhealthy and bad for you. There is that internal battle between what you should eat versus what your body is craving for.
Sometimes, even our lifestyle makes it difficult to win against cravings. The daily habits we develop contribute to these intense and recurring temporary needs, making staying healthy even more of a challenge than it already is. However, knowledge is the first step. Here are 7 things you should know about cravings in order to successfully crush them.
1. Know Your Cravings
You may find yourself consumed with the need to eat a particular kind of food. “If you’re craving for something and you don’t understand why, you will find yourself powerless against it” warns Christine Palumbo, a registered dietitian and member of the Benedictine University faculty in Lisle, Illinois.
Palumbo suggests jotting your cravings down in a journal, or logging into your mobile gadget. Whenever you feel like eating something out of the blue, also try to include describing your emotions. Say you’re tired, or sleepy, or stressed. This will help you learn more about your craving pattern, so you can deal with it in other, more creative ways that do not necessarily involve calorie consumption.
2. Break That Fast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That adage is not mere exaggeration, that first meal of the day can keep your appetite from shooting up later in the day. The Nutrition Journal surveyed two groups of girls who were a little over their ideal weight. According to the study, a 350 calorie breakfast, including at least a dozen grams of protein, lowered one group’s cravings as compared with the other group that skipped breakfast. Researchers believe that protein may help release a hormone called dopamine, activates the neural patterns that control cravings.
So even if you’re not feeling hungry in the morning, having some protein in the form of cheese or eggs or oatmeal and peanut butter can keep those cravings at bay for the rest of the day.
3. Serving Size Matters
When the craving is too strong and you just can’t resist having a bite of your comfort food, make sure that you keep it to a small piece. Don’t end up consuming an entire plate. However, the tendency is that the more you feel you have been deprived, the you are likely to compensate by taking more than what you actually need.
In a research conducted by Cornell University in 2003 on 104 students, it was found that people who ate small servings of junk food felt just as satiated as those who consumed larger portions, when in fact, they actually ate 76.8% less calories.
Take small servings, and try to eat slowly and enjoy the snack. By the time you finish, your cravings will have been satisfied.
4. Mix and Match
According to a study conducted by the Vanderbilt University, combining a small part of your comfort food with a larger but healthier portion works in managing those intense cravings. Known as the “vice-virtue bundle,” this satisfies your appetite by giving in to your cravings, while at the same time ensures that you’re still getting the nutrition you need.
Think of it as an instant reward for yourself, enjoying the gratification of something tasty and sinful while eating healthy at the same time.
5. Go Easy On Yourself
Depriving yourself and feeling guilty afterwards is a common strategy among dieters that often backfires. Guilt can make you think more about the delicious slice of blueberry cheesecake you just had to say no to, and a few days later, you may find yourself gorging on a portion much larger than you actually wanted in the first place.
But simple willpower just won’t work. Registered dietitian Marisa Moore, representing the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says, “It leads people to feeling like failures when they give in.”
Appetite, a food journal, reports a 2014 study where people who said that they thought of rich, sugar-heavy food more as a celebratory fare, rather than as common everyday items, were more in control of their cravings and appetite. They were generally more successful in maintaining their ideal weight. It may be because the value they gave certain meals removed the feeling of guilt, enabling them to enjoy the moment rather than despise themselves for caving in.
6. Avoid Temptation
Keeping food within easy reach can add to your battle against the your appetite. It may tempt you to get up in the middle of the night and grab a snack against your better judgment. As a rule, only keep food that you can eat without feeling bad or guilty afterwards. Keep the sinful goods out of reach, or better yet, out of your house. Says Moore, “Out of sight, out of mind. If it’s 10pm and you want a cookie, you’re probably not going to go out and get some.”
Avoiding the temptation of an unwelcome craving may also mean using social media in moderation. A study by the University of Southern California points out that pictures containing high-calorie food can trigger parts of your brain that seek pleasure. So-called food porn abounds all over Instagram, Tumblr, and other similar sites, and may awaken your appetite even when you have no immediate need of nutrition.
If you must, at least try to curb your social media towards health and wellness posts, so that instead of running to the nearest diner to grab a that juicy cheeseburger, you’ll be inspired to seek healthier alternatives.
7. When You’re On A Diet
Dieting usually means restricting your intake of certain food groups. Labelling certain food as bad or forbidden may only aggravate your cravings. It has been found by a study published in Appetite that people on a diet have a hard time curbing their appetite. Palumbo adds, “When you deny yourself foods you love all the time, it will build up and explode, making you more likely to binge.”
It’s okay to allow yourself a little treat every day. According to Moore, “Cravings are short-lived and soon you’ll forget about it, but will have helped your health with a good snack. It’s a win-win.”