From my experience, causes for cravings (other than hunger) can be stress (chronic, or acute), fatigue, burnout, hormonal imbalances or can stem from a diet lacking in essential nutrients.
Before getting to the cures for cravings, it is important to understand how stress affects cravings and overall weight gain. As stated in “Stress and Weight Gain: How Stress Can Affect Your Weight” via http://www.wellnesswithmoira.com/, increased stress (higher cortisol) can make you crave unhealthy food and cause you to overeat, even when you are no longer hungry. Of course, almost any type of increased stress can slow down your metabolism and cause your blood sugar levels to fluctuate at an abnormal level.1 In my experience, when this happens, I am naturally drawn to sugar to cure that ‘low’ of energy that I am feeling and then within an hour of consuming a sugary food or drink, I crash and go for even more. The cycle tends to be never ending. How my body tends to metabolize sugar, as many of you may also experience, is that it stores it into fat and does not actually get absorbed because my body does not recognize it as real nutritious food and has no clear use for it.
It is important to mention that natural sugar is fine, i.e. from fruit or sources like stevia and agave. What I mean in this article by ‘sugar’ is the refined white stuff that can have a negative impact on your immune system, and of course it turns into fat (the unhealthy kind). By junk food I mean anything that is overly processed or artificial, another way to define it is by the definition of ‘empty calories’, this can be soda, candy, chocolate bars, chips, and items that hold a scarily long shelf life.
Here are the steps to cure cravings on the spot:
1. Drink water immediately, as you could just be dehydrated and not really hungry.
Also, drinking water within the first few seconds of a craving popping up can actually dissipate it all together, and wash it away.
2. Check in and feel where the craving is from, is directly from your stomach (hunger based) or is it from your head and mind?
You’ll be able to tell whether you are hungry or just stressed and using junk food to tame the stress. Of course, eating poorly will contribute to your stress levels and make them even worse.
3. Eat the healthy equivalent of what it is that you are craving.
Craving sugar? Eat an apple or a fruit that contains natural sugar. Craving salt? Eat something real that contains nutrients and light salt, like whole wheat crackers or baked pita chips. Sometimes even veggies and dip can be a wholesome alternative that can satisfy you.
4. Have tea or coffee if you’re craving sugar, because craving sugar can be a sign of low energy or tiredness.
I suggest that for each cup of coffee or tea, drink the equivalent of water, so that you still gain the benefits of feeling awake and not dehydrating your body.
5. If you may actually be hungry, go for a protein bar or a protein shake if you’re not able to get your meal right away.
This will stop you from compensating with a cookie, a muffin or a sugary drink while you wait.
6. If your sweet tooth just won’t go away after trying the above steps, you’re not screwed. Go for a piece 65% (or more) organic dark chocolate.
This is a healthier alternative to candy bars or jelly beans. You could carry some dark chocolate in your bag, leave some at work or even purchase some at most coffee shops, drug stores, or grocery stores in your area.
7. Ask yourself if you are getting enough sleep.
Look back on the quality of the hours of sleep you are getting, not just the quantity. Your craving may mean that you are just really tired.
8. Your overall diet may be lacking in essential nutrients if you find yourself craving junk food or sugar in excess.
Your overall diet should consist of protein, iron, whole grains, healthy carbohydrates, fruit and veggies. If you are craving sugar or salt excessively, this could be a hint to look into what you are eating, and which food groups in your diet may need some re-balancing.
9. Snap out of it!
This last one is something I have been doing, which might sound rather funny, but I have a thin black hair elastic on my wrist that I snap when I crave sugar or junk food. It’s almost like dog training, I literally snap it right when the craving comes up. Upon entering a store or coffee shop, I can always walk away from the pastry case and look for healthier options upon snapping my little band on my wrist. It makes me think about my goals and reminds me of them, I think “I want a healthy body,” rather than “crap food that will make me feel like crap immediately after I eat it”.
Once you replace your junk food craving thoughts with more positive thoughts about your health or life goals that require good health, you’ll be able to gracefully walk away from any food that does not benefit you. You can treat yourself – of course, but even then, you may eventually start treating yourself with healthier versions of your cheat meal or cheat snack. Eating well is not a ‘diet’ it is actually a lifestyle, and a healthy exterior appearance actually starts on the inside.
1. “Stress and Weight Gain: How Stress Can Affect Your Weight”. Certified Coach (CTACC), Holistic Alternative Psychology Practitioner. http://wellnesswithmoira.com/i-need-help-to/reduce-stress/stress-and-weight-gain/
Karisa Karmali is a Young Entrepreneur based in Ottawa, Ontario in Canada. She is a University of Ottawa Graduate, Founder of The Art of Attitude™ and of the Just One Person Scholarship Fundraiser via her book, The Art of Attitude ©. Under The Art of Attitude™ she does promotional modelling, event hosting, and public speaking www.theartofattitude.com.
Image Credit: www.biosanes.com