Taming Cravings

Most of us have experienced this; the feeling of extremely wanting a certain food, a certain taste, a certain texture, which feels like physical hunger but which can happen when we are quite full and our bodies are not wanting food at all. This feeling is what we refer to as a craving. It can be a strong force, which compels a determined quest for the food we are craving. Many people describe these cravings as “uncontrollable” emotional eating, and indeed feel that they are not in charge of what they eat at those times.
There is a prevalent belief that these cravings are caused by some deficiency of diet, “my body needs what I am craving”, but this is not backed by evidence. Cravings are physical hunger, or sometimes not even physical hunger but an emotional discomfort, filtered through our complicated filter of food preferences, food associations and life experiences. Changing hormones, such as during pregnancy, or as a part of pre-menstrual syndrome, can also cause cravings, due to variable blood sugars as well as changes in taste and smell, exacerbated by emotional changes created by hormone shifts.
There are a few strategies to help you manage these cravings:
1. Don’t let yourself get too hungry. When you are starving, everything looks more delicious, and it can be very difficult to restrain the impulse to buy a chocolate bar when it is within easy access.
2. Eat high-protein meals and snacks. Protein helps to stabilize blood sugars and increase satiety, which can reduce if not eradicate cravings for less healthy foods. Space meals 4-5 hours apart and identify problem times, such as after work or while shopping for/preparing dinner, so you can plan a healthy high-protein snack for those times.
3. Work to identify what if any emotions contribute to feelings of cravings and loss of control around food. Once you can anticipate which situations trigger those emotions, you can work on developing proactive strategies to manage the situations and emotions in a more positive way.
4. Get active! Having an active lifestyle can help diffuse emotions that lead to cravings, and exercise promotes the production of feel-good hormones, as well as distracting you from the craving.