Cravings.....Why we get them and how to FIGHT them!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Not So Fun Fact of the Day: According to the American Heart Association,6000 deaths over the past decade can be directly attributed to the increased consumption of sugary beverages such as soda and fruit drinks.

Article of the Day: A Step-by-Step Guide to Mindful Nighttime Eating If you have trouble staying out of the kitchen at night, this article is for you!

We all get cravings every once in a while. In fact, according to Dr. Harvey Weingarten, Ph.D., the president of the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada 97% of women have felt cravings compared to just 68% of men. Dang those stupid hormones! The difference between hunger pangs and cravings is that when you are hungry you will eat anything, but when you have a craving, only a certain type of food will do. Craving seem to hit us out of nowhere, striking when we least expect it. Or do they? Research shows that cravings are actually very predictable.

Here are a couple of common times for cravings to strike:

The most common time to experience cravings is during the dreaded mid-afternoon slump (around 3-6pm). During this time of the day, our blood glucose drops, making us feel sluggish and craving a “lift.”

When we’re stressed out or bored. These bad moods often cause us to crave comfort foods that we believe will make us feel better. In a way they do, because carbohydrates and sweets increase the secretion of serotonin in the brain, which can improve mood, but only temporarily.

Before our “time of the month,” we often crave chocolate and carbohydrate rich food. Before their period, women often suffer from bad moods and mild depression. Overeating sweets and chocolate are probably the body’s attempt to raise serotonin levels.

Cravings can also hit when you are accustomed to eating a certain food at a certain place. For example, you may crave a hot dog at the ballpark, or pop corn at the movie theater. You associate these foods with a good time, so you crave them when you are in these situations.

How to fight cravings.....and WIN:

The number one way to curb cravings is to stop them before they start. Eat carbs, protein and a little fat at ever meal and snack. When you eat meals that are lacking in one type of nutrient, you are likely to crave that type of food later on. Proteins and fat take longer to digest, so they will keep you feeling full for longer. Same goes for fiber. Also, be sure to vary your diet. If you eat the same thing for breakfast lunch and dinner every day you can’t help but give in to cravings!

Eat protein for breakfast. It takes your body longer to digest and absorb and therefore keeps you feeling fuller longer. Remember that study by Purdue that said eating lean protein for breakfast keeps you fuller for longer than if you ate it later in the day? So whip up some scrambled eggs or an omelet for breakfast.

Don’t cut out fat completely. According to a study in the Journal Cell Metabolism, the unsaturated fat found in foods such as olive oil, nuts, and avocados can actually help to stomp out hunger. Be sure to watch your portions, unsaturated fats should make up about 20% of your total caloric intake.

Down a Grapefruit! I’m not suggesting we bring back the grapefruit diet, but according to Dr. Ken Fujioka, grapefruit lower your post meal insulin levels, which is the hormone that regulates blood sugar and fat metabolism.

Pop a piece of gum. Chewing a piece of sugar free gum can help keep the midmorning munchies away.

Allow yourself a cheat day. If you know that you will have an occasional cheat meal, it is easier to stay on track the rest of the time. It’s like a light at the end of the tunnel. I try my best to eat really healthy during the week, and then will allow a splurge or two on the weekend.

Lock temptation out in the cold. Don’t keep food that you crave in the house. Who can resist double stuffed oreos when they are staring you in the face??? Not me!

If you fall off the horse, get right back on. Don’t let slip ups get you down. If you give in to a craving it’s not the end of the world. Well unless you have the mentality of, “well if I already ate 5 oreos the rest of the day is shot so I mine as well just eat whatever I want!” No, no, no that is only going to add injury to insult. Enjoy those oreos and MOVE ON!

The water boy was right, H2O really is the best! Many times when we think we are hungry, or experience a craving, we are really just dehydrated. Aim to drink a small glass of water each hour to stay hydrated and keep your stomach full.

Just Wait. Real cravings will stay with you but psychological ones will not. If you know you have eaten enough, and you are well hydrated, try waiting 15-20 minutes to see if the craving will pass. Try distracting yourself by doing something else (paint your nails, play a video game, knit etc.).

Hit the gym. According to the American Journal of Physiology, 60 minutes of high-intensity cardio can reduce appetite for up to 2 hours after the workout is complete. Aerobic exercise also increases the amount of appetite-suppressing hormone in your body. Plus, you really can’t eat cake while running on the treadmill.

Keep healthy snacks on hand.

Don’t be a creature of habit. If you usually eat a snack every day at 3pm, make sure you aren’t just doing this out of habit. Check in with yourself and make sure you are actually hungry. Do you usually eat ice-cream while watching your favorite late night show? Toss out the ice cream and turn the kitchen lights off to symbolize that the kitchen has shut down for the night. Little changes can mean big rewards.

There is nothing we can do to completely prevent cravings from ever happening. But with a little preparation and an arsenal of craving destroying weapons we can fight the war against cravings and win…….well most of the time!

Let your voice be heard!
What do you crave most? And how do you fight the good fight against those cravings?

Yours truly,

Lauren G.

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