One of many keys to successful weight loss is learning to stop your food cravings. We face failure in losing weight each and every time we cave in.
So, how do we conquer this problem so it never pokes it head up ever again?
Simple, first we have to identify the problem and then make a plan we can stick to in order to overcome those pesky cravings. In order to create a plan to get past these cravings, you must first understand why they happen in the first place.
Why do we crave certain foods?
If we are being intellectually honest, we all know that we are not getting cravings for foods that are actually good for us. You know this as well as I know this to be the truth. If we only craved foods that were good for us, we would probably not have weight control issues in the first place. No, the foods we crave are full of added sugars, simple carbs, and unhealthy fats. Junk food if you will, that provides little to no nutritional value to us. I have been there with these cravings myself on hundreds if not thousands of occasions. There have been times I could eat a five gallon bucket of salad greens and still have an intense craving for a junk food. I have experience in this area, more than I care to admit.
Craving junk foods
Unfortunately, our bodies are hard-wired to crave junk food. There is no getting around this fact. When we eat foods we enjoy, it stimulates the feel-good centers in your brain. This causes us to want to eat even more. Sugar makes us want to eat more sugar. Fat makes us want to eat more fat. Like addicts, our brains are always chasing that pleasurable state of food euphoria. This euphoria comes from a bio-chemical response in our body. For this reason, willpower alone is not enough to get through the cravings.
The hormone connection.
When we have a weight problem, our hormones are often out of balance. It is often the case that when our hormonal balance is off kilter, we also are not sleeping good at night. Lack of sleep causes hormone shifts:
- Ghrelin, the hunger-control hormone, increases, causing you to eat more.
- Leptin, the appetite-suppressing hormone, decreases.
- Cortisol, the stress hormone, may increase, stimulating your appetite.
- Research shows that sleep deprivation causes an increase in overall hunger, which can lead to cravings of sugar, fat or both.
Just the same as when we have sleep problems, stress causes our bodies to increase levels of cortisol and other hormones connected to hunger. As our hormones get out of balance, our appetite increases. The problem is, our appetite almost always causes us to crave sugary and fatty foods. Have you ever had a craving for boiled cabbage? Probably not.
Habits lead to our cravings too.
Many of us grew up being fed comfort foods when we were children. A child skins their knee, and Momma might give them a chocolate chip cookie to help them to feel better. Thus the habit begins. Highly palatable foods that contain sugars and little nutrition will be what we reach for out of habit. Eating these foods are habit forming whether we want to admit it or not. And, when you’re used to not cooking, preparing or planning, you eat whatever’s on hand. You reach for the junk food in the pantry because that’s what you’ve always done.
Food cravings are typically transient, they sometimes do not last for long.
Conversely, there are times that we cannot stop food cravings until we feed it. And, we usually feed our cravings with processed foods that are high in sugar, salt, and unhealthful fats. It is a vicious circle wherein the junk foods we eat to settle our cravings also causes them. This is where most diet plans fail us. They fail us by telling us that we can continue to consume the same foods as we always have.
Corporate weight loss businesses know what they are doing when they tell you that you can still eat junk foods as long as you track them. You need to avoid weight loss businesses that tells you that you can keep eating the foods that got you in trouble with your weight. Their interest is not in your health. No, what they are interested in is you paying them monthly fees. These businesses know they are just stringing you along for nothing more than a profit.
Now, how do we stop food cravings? Here are some good tips, but in a nutshell, the last tip will be the most important to remember:
- Reduce your stress levels. Or as I put it, “make your world small.” Stress makes us want to grab for junk foods when we get a dump of ghrelin with a reduction of leptin.
- Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Hunger and thirst can produce very similar sensations, potentially leading people to confuse the feeling of thirst for hunger.
- Get enough sleep! Lack of sleep throws our hormonal system out of balance.
- Eat enough protein. Protein helps us not only in the repair and replacement of our bodily tissues. It also keeps us satiated longer.
- Create new habits. If you are one to stop by a drive through on your way home from work, try taking a different route home. Often times, we stop and grab food because it is a habit, not because we are actually hungry. Make one of your new habits be pre-planning and preparing your foods for the week ahead of time.
- Avoid hunger by eating low calorie, nutrient dense foods during the day instead of calorically dense low nutrition foods. Stop walking past the snack machine at work if you can!
- Just altogether stop eating foods that are processed, and or, contain added sugars, unhealthy fats, and too much sodium! Eat only whole foods that you must prepare. Foods that have as few ingredients as possible. Follow our free plan at David’s Way to Health and Fitness.