If you’ve ever tried following a diet to lose weight or get fit, you know that those unhealthy food cravings are your worst enemy. These infernal cravings are intense, come up at the worst of times and it usually takes a prolonged battle of willpower to overcome them. More often than not, however, you may give up and give in to these cravings - and even giving in once and offset your determination to continue your diet.
The trick is to overcome your cravings for unhealthy food. All you need to do is understand why they exist in the first place and then adopt some very easy tips to overcome them.
Why you get those cravings
Cravings are usually characterized by their intensity and specificity. A 2007 study in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society says that cravings are hedonic in nature, meaning that they are regulated by the part of the brain called the striatum, which is responsible for pleasure, reward and memory.
An imbalance in hormones like leptin, ghrelin and serotonin can cause cravings. Feeling emotional or stressed can cause this imbalance and so can other changes in your body. This is also the reason why pregnant women have very specific and intense cravings throughout their pregnancy. If your cravings seem like they’re similar to addiction, it is because the same part of the brain and the very same hormones are responsible.
Tips to overcome those cravings
The very basic tenet behind controlling your cravings thus depends on striking the perfect balance in your brain, which can be done by ensuring that your hormone levels are as they should be. The following are some vital tips that can help you maintain this balance:
1. Reduce stress: Feeling stressed is likely to lead to emotional eating and cravings for comfort food - and this is especially true for women. Meditate, take things slow and find other means to get rid of stress and your cravings may become easier to control.
2. Drink water: Hunger and thirst are two sensations that are very similar and your brain sending signals for one can be confused for the other. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Proper hydration can reduce cravings.
3. Sleep well: Not getting enough sleep or disturbed sleep has a deep effect on your brain and body. Studies show that sleep problems can also lead to an imbalance in hormones. So, get seven-eight hours of sleep every night.
4. Get protein: Frequent and unhealthy cravings also indicate that your diet isn’t satiating enough due to low protein intake. Get more lean protein from a variety of sources like chicken, fish, eggs, paneer, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
5. Don’t skip meals: Hunger is one of the biggest reasons why you get cravings for the unhealthiest, richest types of food. It’s, therefore, best if you don’t skip meals and eat regularly. Planning your meals and getting all the nutrients your body needs through your diet can also help reduce cravings.
For more information, read our article on Foods to avoid to lose belly fat.
Health articles on News18 are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.