Everyone knows what a craving feels like. Whatever your personal weakness is, may it be a sweet dessert or salty snack, just the thought of your favorite food can leave your mouth watering. But you know you aren’t really hungry—you just want the delicious flavor of whatever you’re craving.
Especially if you’re trying to balance your diet or lose weight, cravings that won’t go away can set you back from reaching your goals. Fortunately, there are practical steps you can take to reduce cravings for foods with a high calorie count but low nutritional value.
What Causes Food Cravings?
It may seem like cravings come out of nowhere, but there is a science behind it. A couple of different factors can cause food cravings, such as hormonal fluctuations, emotions, and external triggers like seeing an image of a food you love. Cravings can be either selective (specific to a particular food) or nonselective (the desire to eat anything) and are affected by hormones, appetite centers in the brain, and the parts of the brain that experience reward and pleasure.
Practical Advice for Resisting Cravings
Many strategies for reducing cravings require you to understand your cravings better to determine how to stave them off. If you can pinpoint the cause of your cravings or what conditions typically spark your appetite, you can create a game plan to keep yourself away from foods that won’t help you achieve your health-related goals.
Drink More Water
Water has zero calories and no nutrients, but it plays a critical role in any diet. Water not only keeps you hydrated, but it also provides the sensation of fullness. If you drink a cup of water when you feel a craving for calorie-filled snacks or drinks like soda, your body will perceive your stomach as full, and it’ll help to alleviate the craving. It can also be helpful to drink a glass of water before meal times to discourage overeating.
Plan Meals in Advance
This tactic helps fend off cravings, but it also helps with overall diet planning and maintenance. Whether you plan a whole week’s worth of meals in advance or just the day’s menu, knowing what you’re going to eat and when makes it easier to fight temptation. If you can think ahead to your next meal, you take the focus off whatever you’re craving at the moment and put it towards the meal you strategically planned.
Use MCT Oil as a Supplement
Healthy fats are a critical part of any diet, and MCT oil contains pure medium-chain triglycerides, a type of fat that’s easily digestible. When you consume MCT oil, the body releases peptide YY and leptin, the hormones that make you feel full.
As far as supplements go, MCT oil is one of the easiest to incorporate into your daily routine. You can cook with it or simply add it to any liquid you consume, and it won’t change the taste. Click here to learn where to buy MCT oil online and discover creative ways to use it in your cooking.
Curbing cravings doesn’t mean ignoring them entirely, and if you find yourself getting hungry during the day, it’s best to listen to your body. Picking your snacks carefully can make a big difference in your diet. Many popular snacks are processed, packed with carbs and fat, and provide little nutrition or long-term hunger relief.
However, protein-based snacks like beef jerky or roasted nuts have more nutrients, and protein provides longer-term hunger relief than carbohydrates and fats.
Having something in your mouth and the process of chewing it gives a similar tactile sensation to eating. While chewing gum won’t make you feel any fuller, it can mentally and physically distract you from your craving.
Get Enough Sleep
Hormones have a significant impact on your appetite, and sleep deprivation causes hormone irregularities that can throw your appetite off balance. Studies show that people who report chronic sleep deprivation are over 50 percent more likely to be overweight, suggesting that getting better sleep plays a direct role in weight maintenance.
Kicking Cravings to the Curb
Everyone gives in to cravings now and again, and doing so doesn’t have to be a major setback. Instead, treat it as a learning experience. Ask yourself what may have caused the craving, what tempted you further, and what you could have done to steer clear of the off-limits food. With a more forgiving attitude, you can get to the root cause of your cravings and better prevent them in the future.