We all are seeking answers to “How to stop cravings” without knowing the actual reason why our body is responding this way. So, before digging into various ways on how to stop cravings, let’s first understand what are cravings and the root cause of cravings.
What are cravings and how to stop craving?
In simple words- Craving is an intense longing or desire for indulging in a particular act. It maybe a craving to watch a movie or a craving to travel. Craving to eat a particular kind of food is commonly known as food cravings. It is an intense desire to have a specific food of your choice. Sometimes it can seem uncontrollable, and a person would seem restless till they get that particular food. Research professionals believe that cravings lasts for about 3-5 minutes, but this duration of time is the most difficult of all to have a control over one’s longing to eat anything and everything.
Cravings are most common when it comes to food with high sugar, salt and fat content. Well, now you know why you crave processed and junk food more than the unprocessed ones. Processed food is high in all three.
Everyone experiences craving differently. It often becomes a hindrance when it comes to a healthy diet and weight loss. Where you have been controlling your desire and eating healthy all day, a craving for a piece of dessert at night may spill water on your plans. You would be relieved to know that you can track down the reason for your cravings and reduce them. But let us first see why do we crave food?
What causes food cravings
While some would say it’s because you are hungry, lets move into a more logical cause. Cravings are all in the brain. It comes right from the brain.There are areas in the brain that are associated with sensing pleasure and rewards, and it is this area that should be partially blamed for cravings. Eating is a pleasurable and rewarding activity for brain. Whenever we eat, brain feels rewarded and releases dopamine- a feeling good chemical that acts as a neurotransmitter.
Let’s understand this in simple words- We all crave for sweet at times and try to convince our brain to settle for a small piece of dessert. Consuming sweet quickly lights up our mood and the brain releases dopamine making it feel rewarded. Unfortunately, the sweet receptors does not signal our brain when to stop and we end up craving more sweet after having a small piece of it. In fact, the more sweet we consume, the more we crave for it. This creates a vicious cycle of sugar dependence. Thus, craving is a vicious cycle and the smartness lies in curbing those before you end up eating a whole pound cake.
Reasons for craving food
Sometimes, an imbalance of leptin and serotonin hormones causes cravings too. It can also be due to addiction caused by endorphins hormone which is released when you have eaten your food and thus asking you to eat more of it.
Emotions also play a role in cravings. Have you ever caught yourself reaching out for ice cream or a piece of cake when you are low. We need emotional comfort and we choose food as our companion.
Lack of nutrients in the body are also associated with cravings for specific kind of food. For example, if there is a lack of magnesium or good fats in your body you would crave more for cashews and other nuts.
Good news is that you can always curb your cravings once you have identified them. The question now is How to stop cravings for unhealthy food?
How to stop cravings for unhealthy food
1. Drink plenty of water
Drinking plenty of water can do wonders! Thirst and hunger may often be confused as both of them send similar sensations to the brain. Lets pledge that the next time we crave for anything, the first thing is that we will first reach out for a glass of water.
2. Having adequate sleep
Have you observed that you don’t crave for food while you are asleep? Haha! The easiest way to reduce cravings is to get plenty of sleep and maintain a 6-8 hours sleeping schedule.
3. Maintaining mental health
Staying stress free and taking good care of your mental health can prevent you from emotional eating by maintaining a proper balance of your hormones.
4. Eating balanced diet
Eating food that keeps you full for longer period of time is one of the best ways to curb you cravings for snacks. Having a protein rich breakfast with at least two balanced meals in a day would reduce your cravings for munching throughout the day and night. Similarly, adding fiber rich food to your diet would help by keeping your tummy full for a long time.
5. Chewing sugar-free gums
Having something to chew in your mouth such as sugar free gum would keep your mouth busy and would trick the brain.
6. Eating multiple small meals
Eating small portions of meal throughout the day instead of restricted large meals can be helpful in curbing cravings to a great extent. Controlling portions have proved to be a successful strategy according to many researches.
7. Following mindful eating
At last, mindful eating is a must! While eating, eat as if there is no one between you and your food. Yes! not even that web series. This will let your tongue enjoy every bite of your food and send satisfying signals to your brain.
8. Switching to healthy alternatives
Munching on healthy snacks instead of sugary and oily ones is always a better option to stop craving. Finding ways on how to cook your food using healthy alternative ingredients low in refined sugar and fat is considered healthy and good for long term. Best way is to cook your food yourself so that you know the ingredients and their quantity used in it. There are various alternatives to refined sugar (I want to know) , butter (I want to try), frostings (Oh really? I need to know) and all the food we crave for. Smartness lies in curbing our cravings before we end up eating a whole tub of ice-cream.