It’s been a long day and you’re finally home on the couch with your favourite TV series. Everything is perfect and then the craving hits. The more you deny it the more you need that chocolate. Cravings are hard to control but the good news is that they can be beaten. You just need a few tricks to control the urge.
Cravings are a powerful desire for a certain food. Areas in the brain responsible for memory and pleasure are partly to blame for these food hankerings. The memory records an association between a food and a reward and the pleasure centre responds when we feel stressed or down.
The key to overcoming your craving is to identify triggers. If late afternoon is your weakness then try and schedule in a walk or a phone call to a friend that creates enjoyment. Food memory can create a pattern where you are so used to having a coffee and a biscuit at 3pm that these habits become deeply entrenched.
If food is an emotional comfort then try and seek comfort from something else. Try playing some music, lighting a candle or use relaxation techniques. It can also help to address the underlying, emotional cause to break the cycle. Even taking up a new hobby could give you some social support and help you avoid finishing off that packet of Tim Tams.
It’s essential to differentiate between hunger and craving. Is your tummy rumbling or are you just dying for the taste of chocolate? If you are truly hungry, try a healthy snack like a piece of fruit or a wholegrain biscuit with avocado. Maintain nutritious meals so you don’t have highs and lows during the day and listen to your appetite.
The top most craved foods are chocolate, chips, lollies and biscuits. If you know these are your weaknesses then don’t have them on hand or buy smaller quantities. Rather than buying a whole pack of biscuits, get one specialty biscuit from your favourite café. Gradually try to make your cravings healthier by enjoying dark chocolate instead of a Kit Kat or frozen yoghurt instead of a Magnum.
To conquer our fitness goals it’s important to establish a routine and plan. Healthy eating requires the same effort to establish good habits. Work out a schedule for your snacks and when you’re going to eat them. Keep a diary of what you’re eating and what triggers any cravings. Focus on eating a variety of healthy, whole foods.
If you can delay a craving by just 20 minutes then the chances of it happening are significantly reduced. Keep your mood and resolve high by eating foods high in tryptophan such as salmon, turkey, bananas, eggs and milk. These foods boost serotonin and help you fight your urges.
Remember, that moderation is important and so is balance. Denying yourself pleasure from food is denying one of our most basic human needs. You should never feel guilt or anxiety around food and you should always nurture a healthy relationship with eating and your body. Only 5% of diets have been shown to work in the long term so don’t focus on restriction.
Cravings can be a sign that you are lacking nutrients in your diet or that your diet is unbalanced. If you are regularly craving foods or struggling with diets then it would be wise to consult an Accredited Practising Dietitian. Otherwise, reconnect with signals of hunger and fullness; keep a diary; a positive attitude and a few less cakes in the cupboard.