If you repeatedly diet in desperate attempts to lose weight, you’ve probably experienced food cravings. When food cravings become constant, they will lead to food obsession. This is because your body is so deprived of nutrients that it’s begging for food.
Often, food cravings will intensify until you eat something sweet or something you like to relieve the pressure. At this point, some people resign themselves to defeat and therefore feel as though they might as well finish off whatever they’re having. This is what is known as binge-eating.
Studies have shown that the loop from dieting to binge-eating can modify your brain’s pleasure centres, which can have a lasting effect. In this way, food addiction can lead to the same craving, reward, and obsession cycle as cocaine or alcohol addiction.
Dr Jean-Jack Wang, director of the Brookhaven Research Institute, et al., proved that obese binge eater’s reactions to the sight of their favourite foods actively stimulated their brain’s reward centres in the same way as drug addiction. A more recent study from the University of Southern California confirms that looking at high-calorie foods stimulates the desire for them and the expectation of satisfaction in the brain. Cravings are one of the biggest reasons why people have problems losing weight and keeping it off.
Here are some simple ways to prevent or stop unhealthy food and sugar cravings.
- Ask yourself: Are you hungry?
Ask yourself – are you hungry or just bored? I’ve seen more people eat out of boredom (myself included) than eating because they were hungry. Those processed food cravings are in your head most of the time. If you’re feeling hungry and you’re also bored, chances are you just need to redirect what you’re doing. Get active and go and do something. Before you know it, you will have forgotten about food altogether.
- Don’t go to the Supermarket Hungry
Grocery stores are probably the worst places to be when you are hungry or have cravings.
Firstly, they give you easy access to pretty much any food you could think of. Secondly, supermarkets usually place the unhealthiest foods at eye level.
The best way to prevent cravings from happening at the store is to shop only when you’ve recently eaten. Never – ever – go to the supermarket hungry!
- Don’t starve yourself.
Try to prevent yourself from becoming too hungry between meals.
- Eat More Protein
Eating more protein can reduce your appetite and keep you from overeating. It also reduces cravings and helps you feel full and satisfied for longer.
One study of overweight teenage girls showed that eating a high-protein breakfast reduced cravings significantly while another study into obese men showed that increasing protein intake to 25% of calories decreased cravings by 60%. Additionally, the desire to snack at night was also reduced by 50%.
- Eat Proper Meals
Hunger and a lack of key nutrients can both cause cravings.
Therefore, it’s essential to eat proper meals at mealtimes. Doing so provides your body with the nutrients it needs and means you won’t feel hungry after eating.
If you find yourself in need of a snack between meals, make sure it’s something healthy. Reach for whole foods, such as fruits, nuts, vegetables or seeds.
- Don’t go on a ‘diet’.
Instead, try to transform your eating into sustainable and healthy patterns that you can maintain for life.
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