How many times has it happened that you are sitting on the sofa couch on a lazy Sunday afternoon and suddenly you feel the desire to have a chocolate bar? I am sure this happens every now and then and if you ever ask yourself the reason for it, the answer is very simple “cravings!”
Whenever you are on a diet and looking to lose weight or maintaining a particular weight, you are bound to feel hungry at a certain point. This always doesn’t mean that the body is short of energy or you have been starving! Sometimes while staying short of calories, this kind of a powerful desire for food can arise. And this desire is what is called a craving.
The Science behind Cravings
Before we jump to the ways and means to control and outsmart cravings, let us understand the little science behind this. Hunger is not as simple as it sounds; a complex web of signals throughout the body is the driving factor as to how and when do we feel hungry. The urge to eat food does not necessarily come as a body’s response for need of energy, but also depends upon our surrounding environment and a pursuit of pleasure.
Hunger – types
Hunger can be of two types – Homeostatic and Hedonic. If someone has not had food for several hours, the stomach starts sending certain signals which the body starts sensing as hunger signals. This leads to a signaling an immediate need for calories to run the normal functioning of the body and this type of hunger is referred as Homeostatic hunger. This kind of sensation usually occurs due to the hormone Ghrelin (Hunger Hormone) and typically occurs when the energy stores in the body run low. Also, at this moment Ghrelin levels rise. As soon as one starts having food, a series of satiety responses are released across the body and signaling the body that energy is just on the way.
There is a food group called as the processed foods loaded with unhealthy fats and sugars. This type of food is not eaten because one is hungry; rather it is consumed just for calories and for the pleasure of eating.
The problem with these types of foods is that the need and desire (hunger) for such foods can overshoot the fullness levels. This type of huger is called as “Hedonic Hunger.” An example of this type of hunger is the urge to eat a dessert after finishing a meal.
Tips to control Cravings
The desire for cravings can be due to various factors like stress, deprived sleep, emotional and depressive eating. But when we are looking out for weight loss or a healthy lifestyle one needs to overcome this in order to achieve the desired health goals. Few tricks can really help one to control and outsmart cravings.
1. Having enough sleep: Sleep deprived individuals are bound to get more tempted. Sleep restriction may lead to increase in ghrelin and decrease in leptin levels. Though shift in leptin and ghrelin hormone levels are actually the causes for homeostatic hunger, it can also lead to hedonic hunger at times. So, proper sleep can really help you in controlling your cravings for junk food.
2. Macronutrients with high Satiety Levels: Researchers have found that meals with good proportion of healthy fats and lean protein give a higher level of fullness due to the high satiety levels of these foods. Breakfast – which kick starts the day – can play a very crucial role to control your cravings. Include foods like Eggs, Butter, Nuts, which are high in fats to keep you full.
3. Avoid Depressive and Emotional Eating: “I am Feeling Depressed,” or “I am too stressed today and I need a chocolate”, these are the most common excuses for many who want to cheat while on a diet. Binge eating is not the solution to beat stress or come out of depression. In such situations, it is better to sit back and think about why they started this journey of weight loss. Exercise and indulging in one’s hobbies, is also a better way to beat those cravings.
If you are a ‘stress eater,’ and want to know how to tackle this problem, read more about ways to beat it in the Fitmag article here: ‘Emotional Eating’
4. Substituting the calories: One of the best way to outsmart your cravings are to have foods that can do good and at the same time substitute those candy or chocolates. Nuts are a very good substitute as they are less in calories and healthy too.
A smart diet plan involves knowing what to add to the diet, and what to stay away from. Here is a quick list of foods that you must steer clear from: ‘5 Foods you need to Stop Buying Now’
5. Staying Hydrated: Drinking enough water is an amazing way to beat your cravings. Gulping a bottle of water can certainly make you full for some time and can get you out of that situation where you could have hogged on some high caloric food. Cravings are said to generally last for 10 minutes and water increases the chances of you staying away from it.
Hydration is a powerful cleansing tool. There is nothing like water to give your body the healthy detox it needs. Spend some time knowing more about the benefits of hydration with this Fitmag article: ‘Benefits of Hydration’
6. Zero Caloric drink: A zero caloric drink can provide a feel-good factor when all the above strategies do not work. But one needs to be really very cautious as such drinks contain artificial sweeteners and can sometimes end up increasing the cravings.
Stay Committed to your Plans!
The best way to beat those cravings is still to have our thoughts and emotions under control and stick to our diet. Wait for those well-earned reefed days or cheat meals, to fulfill all your cravings wisely.
Article Credits – Venkatesh Udayar