Whether it’s ten, 20 or 100 pounds you are looking to lose, cravings can make losing weight ten times harder. However, you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself as overcoming to your cravings involves more than just willpower. Research into the nature of cravings has shown that hormones play a very large role in how cravings work, as well as our behaviour and perceptions of food.
The most commonly accepted theory that explain the complex nature of cravings and addictions is that we are programmed to indulge ourselves with foods that are high in carbohydrates, because those were the kinds of foods that our forefathers couldn’t come by easily. However, in a world where we are flooded with delicious high carb options, this survival mechanism is somewhat redundant. However, we can get past this diet self-sabotage by making changes in our habits and the foods we are eating.
It almost goes without saying, but having treats in the house when you want to lose weight is a bad idea. It’s important to limit what you have access to and this goes for the workplace too. Try and avoid vending machines and maybe take the time at the start of the week to stock up on foods that aren’t likely to make you feel guilty and fuel further cravings.
This ties in with the first point made. It’s far more likely that you’ll be tempted to buy foods that are high in sugar and fats when you are hungry, because your body is, in a sense, panicking, making you vulnerable to unwise choices when you shop.
Unlike simply being at home or at work, the choices you have at your disposal in a shop is almost limitless, which can be very risky, as you might end up with a whole load of treats that you just don’t need and that aren’t the healthiest option for you.
When you feel the urge to indulge in something delicious but unhealthy, a helpful way to prevent you from overdoing it can be to wait 20 to 30 minutes before acting on your impulses. This can help you gain control over your cravings and perhaps reassess whether you truly ‘need’ the sugary snack that you were craving so badly.
Waiting before a treat can also give hormone levels time to catch up, so that those that tell you to stop eating, such as leptin, can increase in numbers.
When your stomach is empty or your energy levels are particularly low, your body releases a hormone known as ghrelin. This causes you to feel hungry, prompting you to find nourishment. Not eating regularly and skipping meals can cause drastic drops in your energy levels which in turn cause hormonal fluctuations that can make you crave the wrong things and too much of them. Having healthy snacks regularly can prevent cravings from becoming overpowering.
Triggers are things that make us want to eat. For example, you may start craving fast food on a Friday, because that’s when you normally allow yourself an unhealthy treat, or you may want a chocolate bar when you are stressed because you grew up with food being used as a method of comfort. Other things that could be triggers are boredom or distress. However, knowing what triggers you and substituting your default behaviour can be very helpful when battling cravings. Sometimes eating healthily can help reduce the likelihood of triggers arising in the first place, but ultimately the aim is to control your cravings and not allow them to control you.