Taco Bell. That’s my guilty craving. If I text my wife and tell her I’m running by Taco Bell on the way home, she knows I’ve had a long day. We all have cravings. Some people have more cravings than others. And some cravings are stronger than others. My Taco Bell craving is very strong. I’ve conquered it a few times but hands down I succumb to it 9 times out of 10. So what are we to do? I’ve got a few tricks to help both of us!
Get more sleep. We’ve always got 2 chemicals battling in our bodies to tell us whether we should eat or not. Leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is a chemical that tells our mind that we’re full and we don’t need to eat anything (i.e. It helps curb our cravings). Ghrelin tells our mind we need something to eat. The more ghrelin, the more we look for a food fix. Studies have shown that the more sleep you get, the more leptin your body produces. That means less desire for food during the day and less chance of giving in to those cravings! Another way to say it, as other studies have shown, is that people who get less sleep tend on average to be more obese. Don’t let ghrelin, the stomach-growling-monster, take over! Get more sleep, produce more leptin and cut back on cravings and excessive eating!
Reduce stress. The more stress we’re under, the more bad decisions we tend to make. We have a deadline at work, so we snack on whatever’s closest and most convenient. We want the food to give us a feeling of satisfaction and go down fast so we can keep going. My Taco Bell fix is a good example of stress-related craving that leads to binge eating. Nobody ever said, ‘man, what a rough day, let’s swing by the Farmers’ market and get $10 worth of broccoli’! If we can reduce/avoid stress, we will tend to make better food choices. Another thing about stress is that it increases our body’s release of cortisol. Cortisol, among other things, causes unwanted weight gain.
Eat smarter. One main reason we have cravings is because our bodies are trying to tell us we’re not getting the nutrients we need from the food we normally consume. Try eating foods that have more nutritional value. Studies have shown you’ll tend to eat less. Part of this includes eating more protein. Protein tends to make you feel full for longer. It’s a great way to start off your day. There was one interesting study placing participants in 2 groups. One ate eggs for breakfast and the other a bagel. Other than that, they recommended a specific food plan. At the end of the study, the folks who ate eggs for breakfast lost more weight and had less daytime cravings. Think about what you eat – make sure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs.
Realize sometimes it’s a habit. Yep, that’s right. We can sometimes have no other reason we eat what we do than it is a habit. Just have an awareness of this. If you think you’re eating (especially a late-night snack) just because that’s what you usually do and not because you’re hungry, then see if you can refrain. Simple awareness goes a long way.
Don’t put the temptation right in front of you! Let’s be honest. If it’s in the pantry, it’s probably going to get eaten! So, how do we prevent it from reaching the pantry? We don’t get it at the grocery store. And how do we prevent that?! Don’t go to the grocery store when you’re hungry – we tend to make poorer food choices then. Also, try to go to the grocery store as early in the day as you can. As the day progresses, we make poorer decisions. The fresher you feel, the better decisions you’ll make and the more discipline you’ll have.
Chill out. You can’t go crazy with the rules – otherwise, you’ll stress yourself out and we know where that leads! If you have a craving for something sweet, go for it. It’s not the end of the world and we have to keep our sanity. I would throw in one caveat though – think about if there’s a healthier way to satisfy your craving. For example, if you don’t care whether it’s dark or milk chocolate, then go for the dark chocolate. It’s better for you and will leave your body feeling more satisfied.
Cravings can wreak havoc on our health. Learn ways to avoid giving in to them and you’ll be well on your way to a healthier you!