It’s the first day of kicking off a new, health-focused lifestyle, but and all you want is chocolate or Sour Patch Kids. It’s OK. In fact, it’s totally normal. In order to get your cravings in check, it’s important to understand your body’s signals and what they really mean.
Understanding food cravings
We all crave sugar every once in a while, but that doesn’t mean we actually need sugar. When you feel that sugar craving, don’t overlook it. Instead, ask yourself:
- Am I stressed? The cortisol hormone, commonly known as the stress hormone, is elevated in times of prolonged stress. If we are constantly feeling stressed by work, our relationships or our diet, our bodies crave more sugary foods.
- Did I get enough sleep last night? Lack of sleep also causes cortisol levels to rise leading to those sugar cravings.
- Am I actually hungry? Sometimes we associate certain foods with different activities or habits, so we end up craving those foods even when we’re not hungry. For example, if it’s typical for you to eat ice cream in front of the TV in the evening, you might find yourself craving ice cream out of habit, not real desire. It’s not your sweet tooth talking, you just want to feel comfortable.
Whether you’ve revamped your nutrition recently or not, you might experience sugar cravings stemming from one (or more) of these three factors. To take control of your craving and make sure they’re not controlling you, make sure you eat nutrient-rich meals (like our Salmon Salad with Creamy Cilantro Dressing pictured below) at regular times. When we eat irregularly, our metabolism of fat is interrupted. This might lead to unexpected weight gain and make it difficult to lose weight down the line. As a solution, don’t skip meals and try not to add extra snacks between meals when you’re not actually hungry. In addition to eating regular meals, how and what we eat at meals has impact on how often we find ourselves jonesing for that sugary stuff.
How to kick cravings
- Eat without distractions. When we are distracted by the computer, TV or our Instagram feed, we eat less mindfully. We take bite after bite and before we know it, our plate’s empty. Because our brains weren’t focused on eating, it’s almost like we didn’t eat at all. We immediately start craving that post-dinner sweet treat before our bodies have the chance to fully digest.
- Enjoy that sweet treat slowly. If you’re going to indulge in something sweet, absorb the moment – make it a truly indulgent experience. Sit down. Get comfy. Take in the smell. Then, eat the treat very slowly, maybe even letting it melt in your mouth. It might sound silly, but it works. By enjoying it slowly, your body will realize that it’s eating something and you’ll likely eat less, and you’ll feel satisfied that you created a nice moment for yourself.
- Eat enough veggies and protein during meals. A hefty serving of veggies combined with the right amount of protein and fat will help keep you full between meals and curb cravings. The 8fit app is a great tool to help you ensure you’re getting enough of each macronutrient at meals, making it easier to kick cravings.
- Don’t eat sugary treats alone. No, we’re not saying you can only eat chocolate with a friend around. Combine carbs (e.g. sugar) with protein and fat to slow the absorption time. When you eat candy by itself, the sugar is digested more quickly, causing blood sugar levels to rise followed by a sugar crash and more cravings. So next time you indulge in a square of chocolate, enjoy it alongside a serving of almonds.
So next time a craving arises, ask yourself if you’re tired, if you’re stressed, or if it’s a real craving or just a desire to feel comforted. If the craving is real, elist the four tips above and do your best to reduce the serving size and the desire for sweets over time.