“Just this one small treat won’t hurt.”
Does this sound like you? Ignoring cravings is incredibly difficult for anyone. It is so easy to give in to the voice in your head. It maybe be only once in a while, but we all know this is a slippery slope. So, how do you take control of your cravings?
First, make a list. Decide which foods are an absolute no-no and write them down. If sweets at the office are your downfall, keep the list at your desk. If your weakness is grocery shopping, be sure to review your list of no-no’s before heading out the door, and don’t ever head to the store hungry.
Second, stock up on quick and healthy foods that can take the place of the items on your list. Fruit is easy because it comes in its own package and has a hint of sweetness to satisfy cravings. You can also try individually packaged cheeses, crunchy snack-sized veggies, or a handful of almonds, pistachios, and walnuts. Having these items readily available keeps you from looking for a more unhealthy alternative.
Next, decide which treat you can enjoy. Controlling your cravings isn’t about giving up everything. It is important to let yourself indulge occasionally by making it a reward. For example, after the first week of avoiding all the items on your no-no list you can feel great about treating yourself to that delicious specialty coffee or chocolate chip cookie. Remember to keep it within reason. You don’t want to undo all of the superb work you did in the last week.
The final, and most important, step is to reverse your language. When confronted with an unhealthy choice, don’t tell yourself, “I can’t eat that.” Instead, change it to, “I don’t eat that.” This simple change in thinking is the key to controlling your cravings. How does it work? Instead of feeling that you denied yourself a treat, you will become empowered by making a firm decision regarding your health. This is an excellent decision, and you can feel great about sticking with it.
A food craving is an intense desire to consume a specific food, stronger than simply normal hunger. Understanding what your body is really asking for when you can’t seem to stay away from that chocolate will help you make choices that keep you on a healthy track while giving your body what it needs. Sometimes a craving is your bodies way of telling you it needs a certain macro or micronutrient. Being aware of this can help you overcome reaching for a food source that will damage your fitness efforts.
What your body needs when craving….
What your body wants: carbohydrates
If you are dying for a bar of chocolate, it means that you need carbohydrates. Our bodies turn carbohydrates into glucose, which gives us energy. These cravings occur often in the middle of the afternoon when energy is at its lowest. Chocolate or sugar in the form of other sweets will give you a rush of glucose and then a sugar crash. Try oatmeal, couscous or hummus instead to keep your energy more level and make the effect last longer with the additional fiber.
The cravings for certain types of food are also linked to their ingredients. Chocolate for example, contains the amino acid phenyl ethylamine, which is important for the regulation of the body’s release of endorphins. Endorphins are released following a stressor and result in a sense of relaxation. Exercise and sleep are two alternative ways to help facilitate the release of endorphins.
Chocolate also contains large quantities of iron, which can be depleted during the menstrual cycle explaining the timing for a lot of women.
What your body wants: fat
If you are fancying fried food, chances are that your body needs some fat. Our bodies need fat to survive, so if you restrict it too much, you’ll get cravings. Instead opt for fats that are good from you from oily fish, nuts, seeds or add some olive oil to your food. If you really have to have chips, oven baked sweet potato wedges drizzled with olive oil are a good substitute for chips as they absorb less oil and you get additional nutrients from the sweet potatoes.
What your body wants: iron
A lack of iron can make us tired and lethargic, as there are fewer red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. Instead of depending on caffeine for a pick-me-up, eat red meat, beans, chickpeas and fortified cereals. If you already get enough iron, those cravings could be caffeine addiction so cut it out for two weeks.
What your body wants: vitamin B
When we are under pressure, our adrenal glands (which regulate our salt levels) pump hormones into your body and you start craving salty foods. Avocados are a great source of vitamin B which helps de-stress the body and keep the immune system strong. If nothing but crisps will do, choose baked rather than fried and stick to small portions.
Craving salt may also be partly due to being dehydrated. When dehydrated, the body loses water, electrolytes, and salt, and by ingesting salt, water retention can be increased. Craving salt can also be a sign of diabetes, heart disease, and sickle cell anemia so if you are experiencing it extremely often, talk to your doctor.