Food cravings are an urgent and often very intense desire for a specific food. They can have both mental and physical causes, and they’re incredibly common. Practically everyone has them at one point or another.
Instead of trying to ignore your food cravings – which can only cause added stress – try to uncover their underlying cause and adapt your lifestyle to eliminate them completely.
Here’s what you need to know:
One of the most common causes of food cravings is an imbalance in your leptin and ghrelin levels. These are your hunger and fullness hormones, and when they are out of joint, you will often feel the munchies.
Both pregnancy and PMS can cause food cravings as well, often for a very specific food. For example, you might not just crave sugar, but crave those double-chocolate brownies they sell at the bakery across the street from your sister’s flat.
Poor diet and a lack of sleep, as well as a lack of physical activity and an imbalance in your gut microbiome, can also be the reason you are suddenly craving something.
Your mood and the amount of stress you’re under will also impact what you feel like eating and how often. These are the most common mental triggers we experience, so it’s no wonder we all get these cravings frequently.
Here is how you can fend off your cravings:
If you feel a sudden urge to eat something, try drinking a glass of water instead. Thirst can be confused with hunger pangs, so if you feel fine after you have had a drink of water, you can just go about your day and forget about the craving.
Keeping your body hydrated can also help you feel better and more energetic overall, and you will be less likely to feel hunger pangs caused by dehydration. If you are tired of plain water, try adding some lemon or other fruit to it.
Also, remember that caffeine is a diuretic, so you will need to up your water intake if you drink a lot of coffee. Try a healthy energy drink if you want to cut down but do still need the energy boost.
Protein keeps you fuller for longer, as your digestive system will need more time to break it down than carbs. Protein will also keep you from overeating, helping you balance out your hormone levels too.
You can choose both vegetable and meat protein sources; just make sure that your intake matches your lifestyle. For example, if you are working out, you will need to eat more protein than if you are not. If you are lifting weights, you will again need more protein than if you are doing yoga.
Having a meal plan will also help you manage your cravings, as this will eliminate the uncertainty that comes with not knowing where your next meal is coming from or what it’s going to be.
Meal planning and prepping will also help you stay on track with any dietary goals you may have, and prevent you from getting extremely hungry, which can lead to major cravings, often for something calorie-dense and unhealthy. It will still be perfectly okay to deviate from your meal plan, even when you get specific food pangs, but you will most likely experience less and less of them.
Stress often causes hunger pangs, as it ups the levels of cortisol in our blood. This makes our body crave sugar and other high-energy foods. It also diminishes our rationale, so we aren’t able to think our meal choices through as well.
Do whatever you can to minimize the stress you experience in your daily life. There will certainly be situations you can’t predict or prevent, but by understanding your most common, everyday triggers, you will be able to feel much calmer and mellower.
A lack of sleep can also cause some major hunger pangs as your body tries to get access to more energy.
When you are tired and sleepy, your brain will fire up all kinds of signals, telling you to eat more sugar, and drink more caffeine, as this is the fuel it can most urgently turn into energy. This is why we usually overeat when we are tired and stressed out.
Simply by upping the quantity and quality of your sleep, you can have more energy, and your body will no longer crave the fuel it previously did.
Combating your food cravings may seem like a challenge, but the more you improve your lifestyle, the less of them you will have.
Remember that you also need to get your overall health checked to ensure that the cravings aren’t caused by a physical issue. If everything checks out okay, consider implementing all of the tips we’ve offered here, and you’ll slowly start to feel less and less hungry.
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