I am willing to bet large amounts of money that you have experienced strong food cravings from time to time. I am equally willing to bet that the types of food you crave are not the healthy, fresh varieties. Oh no – you crave hot chips, baked goods, cupcakes, pizza and burgers.
The body is an amazingly intricate specimen. It knows exactly how much energy and therefore how many calories it needs to operate at optimum level. It lets us know, through our hair, skin, nails and teeth, when we are getting enough nutrients from our foods by rewarding us with the look of health when we are doing the right thing. Cravings, however, have that nagging ability to drag us away from our best health eating intentions and pull us into the darkness. Surprisingly, food cravings are generally not a sign from our body that we are lacking in a particular food or nutrient. Rather, they more often than not are sign of habit, where our brain goes into overdrive and tricks our stomachs that we simply must eat that huge bowl of creamy pasta, even when we are not even hungry.
There are some simple and highly effective tricks you can use to beat food cravings. These tricks also work for those of you who battle with overeating at night, particularly after dinner. Try them out and let me know if they work for you.
Remove yourself from the situation
Have you ever noticed that even though you’re not hungry, as soon as you walk into a bakery and smell the delicious scent of baked goods, you are immediately ravenous? The power of smell is extremely persuasive and can fool even the most steadfast among us into thinking that we should treat ourselves. If you find yourself in this situation, simply leave. Remove yourself from the smell and the temptations and within five minutes, I guarantee you will no longer feel tempted.
If you know this is your particular weakness, try to alter your patterns of behaviour so you never find yourself in a situation where you will be tempted. Change your walking route so you don’t have to walk past the bakery, or avoid that section all together in the grocery store. If you’re not reminded of it, you won’t want it.
When you are struck by a strong craving, make it your mission to embark on a different task for at least fifteen minutes. Go for a walk, paint your nails, call a friend, start a puzzle, read a book – whatever it takes to get your mind off the fact that you are tempted by a bad food choice. If, after that time, you still really want it, perhaps indulge a little bit but keep it at that. Your craving will be fulfilled without going overboard.
Remove temptations all together
Similarly to removing yourself from the situation, remove tempting food items from your home so you won’t be tempted to eat them next time you open the pantry in search of a snack. If you’re craving chocolate but don’t have any in the house, it requires so much more effort on your part to leave the house and go and buy some. If you cupboards are currently stocked full of tempting treats, throw them out! If the first thing you see when you open the fridge is vegetables and a healthy dip, you will have no other option but to munch on that for a snack, instead of gorging on chocolate or ice cream.
Find a healthier alternative
If you're craving pizza, you can reach a happy medium by making one yourself, using wholewheat dough and piling it high with veggies and not too much cheese. Similarly, if you want a baked treat, try baking something yourself at home. That way, you know exactly what's going into it. The process it takes to physically make the sweets will slow down your need to indulge also.
Brush your teeth
This one is a good one following dinner. If you know you are full after your evening meal (which you should be if you have prepared a healthy and satiating plate of goodies), brush your teeth when you finish eating. This will signal to your body that eating time is now over. It also means you can relax into your night and mentally prepare your body for sleep. Having minty, fresh breath makes it more difficult to go back to the cupboard in search of chocolate.
Deal with the cause of the cravings
This one is important. If you regularly find yourself craving and indulging in unhealthy foods, take some time to think about why it is you are you doing this. Are you trying to fill an emotional void with food? Are you lonely? Bored? Consider the deeper issue at play and address this first.