You’ve just had lunch but are overwhelmed by a craving for sweets? Or when watching TV in the evening, you can’t do without a bag of chips? You probably know this situation!
Usually these kinds of cravings are not linked to real hunger! In this blog post you will learn more about how food cravings emerge and will get the best tips to successfully fight and prevent them.
The causes of food cravings
Usually, cravings do not reflect physical hunger. After all, natural hunger builds up slowly and gradually. Why is it then that our body signals us the immediate need for chocolate, fast food & co.?
One important factor are your blood sugar levels or rather their control center in the hypothalamus. This part of the brain regulates the release of hormones, for example. If the blood glucose level drops below normal our brain triggers an alarm and sends this message: Give me energy! Actually, this is a good emergency system for bad times. In everyday life, however, this is usually a false alarm because there’s plenty of energy – especially in the form of body fat.
Cravings can have physical, but also psychological causes. Here are some examples:
1. “Wrong” way of eating
An unbalanced diet but also crash diets can lead to a lack of vital nutrients (especially vitamins and minerals). The body might then demand them quite heavily – the well-known cravings.
It might also happen that the pancreas overreacts and produces too much insulin after a meal rich in simple carbs (e.g. from sugar or white flour). Your blood sugar levels then drop too much and your body call for immediate energy once more. Satisfying this “need” with fast-acting carbs will lead to a blood sugar roller coaster. A vicious circle.
In the long run, this can not only be a problem for your shape (insulin is a fat storage hormone!), but also for your health!
2. Not drinking enough water
We often confuse hunger and thirst. Water is the basis of so many important processes in our body. If we don’t drink enough water, everything becomes more difficult and the body doesn’t work properly. Of course, this also applies to losing weight.
3. The power of habits
Many of us often automatically reach for unhealthy snacks when being bored, stressed or sad. This is not surprising. After all, we often got a lollipop as a child for comfort. This has become deeply ingrained in our brains and makes us subconsciously do things we don’t really want to do.
4. Bad sleep
Sleeping badly and too little can have an impact on our hormones. Scientific studies have shown that this can result in a low level of leptin, which in turn controls the feeling of satiety. In other words, if you don’t sleep well, you’ll be hungrier. Without quality sleep you’ll lack the energy your body needs to resist “normal” hunger.
Malfunctions of the thyroid gland, intestines, liver, etc., but also of the soul can be underlying causes as well. If you feel that your hunger pangs are unusually frequent and severe, please talk to your doctor about them. Nothing is more important than your health!
As you can see, cravings can have very different causes. The good news is: There are great ways to control them!
The best tips against food cravings
Here are the best measures and tips to prevent and counteract them:
1. Drink enough water, at least 2.5l (85oz) /day!
A glass of water often helps immediately. A cup of (peppermint) tea can also provide quick relief. Feel free to also read our blog post!
2. Favor complex carbohydrates!
Wholemeal bread, pasta or brown rice allow your blood sugar level to rise much more evenly than products with a lot of sugar and white flour. Make sure to prefer mostly natural sources of carbohydrates. These include oatmeal, potatoes and vegetables. A nutrient-rich diet with lots of vitamins, trace elements and bitter substances prevents cravings!
3. Eat more protein!
Protein are your ally in the fight against cravings:
- Increased protein intake can reduce your cravings.
- More protein can curb your appetite, especially late at night.
- Protein keeps you full longer.
4. Practice mindfulness!
Mindfulness can help you get back on track with your body’s signals. Often it’s enough to stop for a moment when your belly starts to rumble and ask yourself:
“Am I really hungry right now or do I just need a break? Or a nice chat, a hug or something else?”
That’s how you learn to recognize your real needs.
5. Make sure you have a relaxing sleep environment!
Getting enough and good sleep is a great way to prevent cravings. Here’s what you can do to improve your sleep quality:
- Refrain from eating heavy meals in the evening.
- Put your cell phone away at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature.
6. Use specific strategies in case of emergency!
Do your cravings become noticeable after a meal? Make brushing your teeth a closing ritual. Do you unconsciously grab something from the snack box? Give away your provisions to friends. Be creative!
7. Change your focus and distract yourself!
Cravings have a special psychological element. If you give them a lot of space and focus on them, they usually get worse! Distracting yourself is the way to go.
Try playing a game on your smartphone, for example. A study suggested that playing Tetris on a smartphone for just 3 minutes was shown to curb several types of cravings, including food cravings.
Intermittent fasting helps you fight cravings
With intermittent fasting, you don’t have to worry about unbearable hunger. Your body gets used to the change after a short time.
The regular breaks from eating give your body a time-out: This allows blood sugar and insulin levels to normalize. You’ll learn to distinguish real hunger from cravings. You will be less hungry and get full faster.
Another benefit is the increased ability to master your hunger. In return, you’ll enjoy the food more consciously in your eating window, no restrictions at all.
Back to a natural sense of hunger with intermittent fasting
As you can see, cravings can have various causes. But you don’t have to resign yourself to it if you know this feeling.
A balanced diet combined with good sleep, mindfulness and intermittent fasting is a great strategy to bring unpleasant cravings under control in a permanent way.
You have never fasted before or need support? Download the free BodyFast app now and give it a try!