It’s 4 pm and you simply can’t resist munching down the chocolate bar in your drawer. Sound familiar, doesn’t it?
Chips, brownie, ice cream, chocolate, cupcake, pizza, burger, fries – we all are familiar with cravings for these foods. Food cravings represent the intense urge to eat specific foods, and are usually stronger than normal hunger.
Before understanding how to deal with these cravings, let’s understand what causes them.
- Ignoring taste and flavor
Well, I had a friend who used to eat a big bowl of oatmeal for breakfast every single day. Her nutritionist had recommended fiber-rich oats for weight loss. It was another story that she disliked oats but continued eating them to spur weight loss. End result? Within an hour, she would feel hungry again
Moral of the story –
Eating foods that score high on nutrients but don’t appeal to your taste buds is a sure-shot way of inviting food cravings. After all, food is not just about nutrition, but flavor and satiety as well.
So if you enjoy your parathas for breakfast, go ahead and relish them.
Same goes for that “Just a salad for lunch” category. You eat salad for lunch and you feel so accomplished that you want to give yourself a pat on your back. But before you could do that, your tummy starts giving hungry signals and before 4 PM you are dreaming about a pack of chips. Evening hunger pangs (especially cravings for salty or sugary snacks) are common occurrence to people who chose just a salad for lunch. An “only salad” meal (with some soup or grilled meats) can be a good idea for dinner provided you don’t follow it up with late night snacking.
Missing major meals like breakfast or lunch is definitely inviting uncontrollable food cravings at a later time in the day which spells trouble for our weight. Our body requires food for its normal functioning. But if you don’t feed it on time, you will definitely end up overeating. As we nutritionists say “The biggest breakfast mistake is, not having one at all”.
Simple solution to solve this craving – Eat your meals at small, frequent intervals of 2-3 hours.
- Nutrient deficiencies
You can also pass the blame on nutrient deficiencies or hormones for triggering cravings for specific foods.
For example, craving for salty foods could be an indication of fluctuation in stress hormone levels. Practicing meditation or breathing exercises will help reducing cravings for salt-laden foods. Craving for chocolates signposts magnesium deficiency. Intake of green leafy vegetables can easily curb this craving.
- Sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation can also be a contributor to food cravings. Lack of sleep leads to an increase in hormones responsible for hunger pangs that leads to cravings for salty and sugary snacks. Surely, many of us relate to those night outs or pyjama parties where we have munched whatever has been placed in front of us till we finally feel asleep.
A dip in cortisol levels in the afternoon which make us lethargic could also fuel this sweet treat urge. Early to bed with a good night’s sleep can help you lose weight
- Quashing those cravings
Earlier, whenever I felt the urge to eat something sweet especially in the late afternoon, I would try engaging myself in some work till that sweet craving subsided. But the minute I noticed someone digging into that gooey brownie during evening tea time in the office cafeteria, I wouldn’t be able to resist myself and would end up eating the brownie! And if I somehow gathered the will to resist that then it would be even worse and I would reach for the tub of ice-cream later at night.
Lesson learnt – Whenever the urge to eat something sweet arises, allow yourself a small treat. So, opt for eating 1-2 pieces of chocolate when the craving strikes, instead of gobbling the entire bar later.
Yep, it is important to give in to our cravings beyond a point because cravings do come back with a vengeance and make you eat a lot more later.
- Surrounded by food
Munching during those nail-biting India-Pakistan matches in the drawing room with the entire family, a family picnic, a lunch time-out with colleagues or attending a wedding where the focus is on food – the ambience of being surrounded with food can also trigger food cravings.
Obviously we can’t stick to the soup, fruit and salads alone, can we? In such a situation, sharing what we are eating is the best solution. And sharing is caring.
So, next time try sharing your plate or munchies with your sibling / parent / colleague and avoiding re-filling your plate again and again to help you relish those scrumptious dishes without going overboard.
All in all, cravings are normal and have a place in a healthy lifestyle. All we need to do is to learn to satisfy them in a controlled manner.
Occasionally, feeding your cravings is definitely a good idea because cravings can sometimes bounce back so strong that you might end up overeating at the next meal or binging on dessert post dinner. Restricting certain foods all the time may double the desire of indulgence.
Clearly, the key to food cravings lies in our own hands 🙂