How to overcome food cravings
Dieting would be oh so easy if it weren't for those pesky cravings! Luckily, there are many things you can do to make cravings a thing of the past. Put down your fork, step away from the snacks and check out these 10 tips for beating your cravings.
Kill your cravings, tip 1: Address any deficiencies
If you experience regular, intense cravings for particular foods, it may be that you are suffering from a nutritional deficiency which your body is trying to address. It is believed that chocolate cravings can stem from a magnesium deficiency, while a lack of chromium in the diet can lead to sugar cravings. Maintaining healthy levels of zinc can also help to regulate your appetite. Make sure you are eating a wide variety of nutritious foods to address any deficiencies in your diet.
Kill your cravings, tip 2: Eat a little of what you fancy
Ever found that your cravings got worse the harder you tried to ignore them? A study published in the journal Appetite has suggested that many people crave the foods that they most attempt to resist. Rather than going cold turkey on your junk food addiction, having a little of what you fancy should help to reduce the temptation to binge on your favourite treats. You could try following the 80/20 rule; eating healthily 80 per cent of the time and being less strict for the other 20 per cent.
Kill your cravings, tip 3: Get active
Whether your cravings stem from hunger, boredom or lack of motivation, heading out for a run or hitting the gym could help you not to give in. Exercise is not only a great distraction from your cravings, a study led by a researcher at Loughborough University has also found that aerobic exercise can help to suppress your appetite. Furthermore, getting active will help you to feel great about your body, and you wouldn't want to ruin all that hard work with a junk food binge now would you?
Kill your cravings, tip 4: Try healthier alternatives
Just because you've decided to eat healthily, that doesn't mean you can never snack again. Rather than giving in to your junk food cravings, try experimenting with healthier alternatives, such as frozen yoghurt or sorbet instead of ice cream, seasoned popcorn rather than crisps and sweet potato wedges instead of fries.
Kill your cravings, tip 5: Buy some vanilla scented products
If you're struggling to resist sugar cravings, try investing in a vanilla scented candle or air freshener for your home or wearing a vanilla scented perfume to curb cravings while on the go. A study at St George's hospital, south London, found that using vanilla-scented patches on the back of participants' hands significantly reduced their appetite for sweet foods and drinks. It is believed that this is because the smell of vanilla can help to suppress sweet cravings.
Kill your cravings, tip 6: Give yourself a happiness boost
Research has found that eating carbohydrates such as pasta, bread and potatoes stimulates the production of the 'happy hormone' serotonin in the brain. This may explain why many of us crave these 'comfort' foods when we're feeling down. To cut your cravings, try to find healthier ways to give your serotonin levels a boost, such as meeting up with a friend, watching a comedy movie, taking part in an exercise session or smelling some uplifting essential oils such as neroli or lemon.
Kill your cravings, tip 7: Relax
Just as many of us indulge in comfort eating when we're feeling down, stress can also be a powerful trigger for cravings. Research from the University of Cincinnati has shown that sodium in salt inhibits the body's stress hormones, meaning that cravings for salty foods could be your body's attempt to deal with stress. To overcome these cravings, try to avoid the things that cause you stress as much as you can and make relaxation a regular part of your routine. Find a healthier way to deal with stress when it occurs, such as working out, meditating or talking through your problems with a friend.
Kill your cravings, tip 8: Change your habits
According to research results published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, your environment can be a powerful trigger for food cravings. Maybe you associate going to the cinema with eating popcorn, for example, or watching your favourite TV show makes you reach for a snack. To banish habit-formed cravings, try to avoid the environments that trigger them. Take up a hobby that reduces your TV time, or walk a different route to work so as not to pass by your favourite coffee shop. By avoiding certain places or activities, you can help to kill those cravings.
Kill your cravings, tip 9: Start your day with a treat
While it may sound counterproductive, if your cravings are really getting on top of you, breakfast could be the perfect time to indulge. Researchers from Tel Aviv University found that participants who ate a 600-calorie breakfast which included dessert lost an average of 40lbs more than those who had a smaller 300-calorie one. This is thought to be because the metabolism is more efficient in the morning, and also because giving into cravings first thing can help to banish them for the rest of the day.
Kill your cravings, tip 10: Get enough sleep
Researchers at the University of Chicago have found that not getting enough sleep affects our appetite-regulating hormones, meaning that we feel hungrier the next day and are also more likely to crave calorie-rich, high-carbohydrate foods. Not only that, lack of sleep decreases willpower, meaning that you are less likely to resist those cravings. To help reduce your cravings, make sure you get a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night.
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