How to Avoid Food Cravings
When You Always Feel Hungry!
It is happening again.. it is late night time and another craving episode is striking!
You must have something to eat now and it must be something sugary or fatty. No way this is going to be healthy or waist-friendly.
So what do you do?
How to emerge successfully from this willpower trial?
What can you eat to calm down your craving?
And what can you do in order to avoid food cravings in the first place?
Recognize the real reason behind your hunger
Let’s first take a minute to address which could be the underlying reasons behind your hunger. This is important as it will indicate which are the correct steps to take in order to handle it.
Here are the 5 types of hunger you should consider:
1. You are actually thirsty
It’s very common for people to confuse feelings of thirst for hunger. Research shows that hunger feelings can also be associated with dehydration.
2. Your food desire was triggered
Your food craving can be triggered by your environment. This is usually the case when you crave a specific food or certain food types. For example, you might be dying for some chocolate after you saw it in your cupboard or on social media.
3. You are bored or stressed
Your cravings are driven by emotional or psychological reasons. An emotional hunger episode usually comes on suddenly and it is not satisfied with fullness. In fact, studies show that emotional eating is associated with reduced awareness of hunger and satiety cues.
4. You are really tired
When you are sleep-deprived your body goes to survival mode and it seeks for energy in any way possible. So food cravings arise in hopes that your body gets the much-needed energy from food, but what you actually need is sleep.
5. You are truly hungry
You are actually experiencing the results of nutritional deficiency. Unlike emotional hunger, physical hunger comes on gradually and you can easily stop eating when you are full.
Now that we’ve explored some of the sources of hunger feelings, let’s jump into what to do about them!
Find out if you are just thirsty
When the feeling of hunger strikes, drink a full glass of water and wait for 10-15 minutes.
If the feeling goes away, then the craving you felt was due to thirst. If not, then at least the water will keep you from overeating.
Just make sure you are drinking water and not sugary beverages, like soda, energy drinks, and sweetened coffee. These drinks may have anywhere from 250-500 calories or even more and since they are packed in sugar they can trigger your cravings for sweets.
Keep craving triggers out of the house
My triggers foods are pastries and bread – I could eat them all day.
What are the foods that trigger your cravings?
Make sure you know them and then do yourself a favor and keep these foods out of the house.
Think of it, how likely are you to eat a freshly baked croissant that is sitting on your kitchen table? On the other hand, how likely is to get out of the house to find yourself a croissant at 11 pm at night?
The battle isn’t fought in the kitchen, it is fought in the grocery store.
Avoid putting your trigger foods in your shopping cart and you have already won the battle. I even go one step further and avoid completely passing by the aisles with my trigger foods when I go grocery shopping.
Need more grocery shopping tips? Go here.
Stay away from foodie-social media and TV
We’ve all been there: You’re innocently scrolling through your social media feed when all of a sudden you’re bombarded with images of gooey brownies or videos with melted-cheese pizzas and before you know it, you’re ordering delivery pizza or you are searching your cupboards for some sweets.
So, it’s probably a good idea to stay off foodie-social media and choose only TV shows that don’t involve cooking.
Also, make sure you don’t force yourself to stay up late to watch your favorite shows. Studies show that getting enough sleep is important to control hunger and cravings as it helps regulate the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin.
Find a healthy ‘copycat’ of junk food
Sometimes, you can do all of the above tricks to stop cravings and still feel your tummy grumbling.
What can you do then?
Having some healthy tasty snack alternatives is key to effectively avoiding such instances from leading to over-indulging in calories.
For example, try an apple with peanut butter or a banana with 2 pieces of dark chocolate or a handful of dried fruit. If you need something savor, try hummus with veggies or some sweet potato wedges.
These snacks won’t make you feel guilty while helping you get your craving off your mind. Just be sure you keep your portion size in check.
As previously mentioned, a craving is an exercise in willpower, since most of the times it is not real hunger but rather driven by an emotional or psychological cause.
So, in order to combat this impulse as soon as it appears, make a list of the top 10 activities you could be doing instead of actually indulging in that craving.
From playing with your pet, going for a walk, dancing for your favorite song, doing your makeup, calling a friend, or catching up on some reading, the options are infinite depending on your personal interests and lifestyle.
Just give it 10-20 minutes of your chosen activity and you’ll quickly notice your cravings going away if it was driven by stress or boredom.
In case your cravings are caused by fatigue, getting some sleep would be the best “destruction” you can bet on.
Increase your protein intake
High protein intake increases the levels of satiety hormones, giving the feeling of fullness sooner. At the same time, it reduces the levels of hunger hormones, such as ghrelin, making it less likely for you to get cravings during the hours following a high protein meal.
Help your body avoid food cravings in advance by eating more protein. If you are a meat eater, add lean meat dishes into your diet. Fish and eggs are also a wonderful source of protein. If you are vegetarian or vegan, add more beans, lentils, and nuts into your meals.
Don’t skip meals
Don’t skip meals even if you are not hungry.
This will most probably result in you becoming extremely hungry later in the day. The brain starts to panic and food cravings arise to make you eat anything in the hopes of getting the energy that the body needs at the moment.
In contrary to emotional hunger, overeating is less likely when you are experiencing physical hunger. However, is highly likely that is such cases you will indulge in fast food options that are usually unhealthy and high in calories.
Eat high-volume/low-calorie foods
You stomach needs filling. It is less likely to have a food craving when your stomach is literally full.
What helps here is to add voluminous foods to your diet that does not contain a huge amount of calories. Some of these foods are known as zero calorie foods and can help you eat more often during the day without adding up on calories as well as eating larger portions with your meals for the same number of calories.
For example, accompany your launch with a cup of broccoli or a cup of green beans will only add up about 30 calories to your meal but will help feel full for a lot longer during the day.
Make your meals less boring
Since food cravings are mostly an emotional issue and eating boring untasty meals is a guaranteed way to developing food cravings for those tasty snacks and treats.
For example, adding spices and herbs to your snacks and meals can make them so much tastier while they are completely calorie free! Some spices can also suppress you from eating more and help in the digestion process.
For real, when you exercise you just don’t get so many food cravings anymore. You think that when exercise you will want to eat more, but that is not the case.
You can’t believe this until you try it!
As research shows, this is simply because, during exercise, the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin decreases, while the hunger-suppressing hormone peptide YY increases.
Schedule your indulgences
Setting a particular timeframe that you can let yourself indulge in, can help you have better control over cravings.
For example, one piece of chocolate per day after launch won’t make much difference in daily calorie intake, but it will help you get some balance and have stronger control over your hunger signals.
Note that is important though to avoid the all-or-nothing approach.
Eating a piece of chocolate in the middle of the day doesn’t mean that your healthy lifestyle or your weight loss progress is ruined. Having this as an excuse to eat the whole bar of chocolate now is what will really ruin your progress.
Controlling food cravings can be very tough sometimes, but with the right strategies, you can prevail.
When you feel hungry try to identify the reason that you feel this way:
- Is it hunger or thirst?
- Is it real hunger or a craving because of emotional or psychological reasons?
- Are you hungry or you are actually sleep-deprived?
- What triggers your cravings?
Depending on your answers, commit to try a few of the relevant tips in this post and you’ll be surprised how quickly you can take control over your hunger and cravings!
Have you already tried any of these tips? Do you have any tips that work for you? Share them in the comments below!
Stella is a software engineer girl with a passion for everything related to science and travel. As a traditional "non-fitness" person who manages to find a balance between being healthy and fit, and a foodie, and gym hater, she is on a mission to show ordinary people like her that they don’t have to be fitness junkies or starve themselves to get their dream body and be healthy.