Controlling Your Cravings
Controlling Your Cravings
You are no doubt familiar with the feeling of hunger. You can feel it clawing at you from the inside, unbearable pangs that need to be satisfied immediately no matter the cost (and regret later). Feeling hungry is a normal reaction; it is our body telling us that we need to eat to keep living and functioning. However, with food plentiful all around us today, many times our interpretation of hunger has become confused.
The different types of hunger
We can split hunger into two categories; real, physiological hunger and psychological, or mouth hunger. Even though they may seem the same, the two are very different. Real hunger is when you are truly hungry for food, for energy and sustenance, and when you need to eat to continue functioning normally. Mouth hunger is when you would like something to eat. Cravings are the second type of hunger – mouth hunger.
What are cravings?
A craving is when you are intensely thinking and needing a food, and in most cases the bad type of food. If you restrict yourself too much from eating the food you desire, it can affect your mood negatively. This can further increase the desire, and once you start eating whatever it was that you wanted, the enjoyment is that much greater.
This can lead to a very negative cycle. Your mood gets worse because you are not eating what you want to be eating, and then the desire intensifies because you subconsciously remember how good you felt when you had eaten.
Just thinking about food gets you in the mood to eat, even though you want to avoid it. Today, with food so cheap and plentiful all around us, this is more difficult than ever. Supermarket aisles are increasingly filled with sugar-rich sweets, snacks and other addictive foods. Fast food is cheaper, tastier and more present than ever. We are constantly bombarded with advertising for very tasty, very convenient and very unhealthy food.
By now, you are probably thinking that there is no hope and that resistance is futile. This is luckily not the case. All around you are people who are fighting the same battle as you and are coming out on top. Like all things, the process can seem a bit difficult at first, but with every day it gets easier and easier until it practically becomes second nature and just the way that you are living.
Eat regular meals and stick to a schedule – Don’t skip meals, and try to eat at similar times every day. Skipping meals will just lead you to become hungrier later, and have less control.
Pay attention to how you are feeling – Eat when you are truly hungry, not when you are bored or just want something to eat.
Think about what causes cravings – If you feel that you are having difficulties controlling yourself, keep a diary in which you record what you eat and when, as well as how you feel before you eat and after. This will help you see what gets you in the mood to eat, and if you are eating because of stress, boredom or loneliness.
Stay occupied – If you are busy and interested in what you are doing, you won’t be thinking about eating. Sitting for a long time and watching TV or browsing the web are often very boring activities and are a great trigger for unhealthy overeating.
Make meals their own activity – Only eat at mealtimes, without watching TV or your phone or whatever else. Eat in your kitchen or dining room, not all over the house. You will find that you will eat less when you are paying attention to what you are eating.
Regular drinks – unfortunately, not those drinks, but water, hot teas and similar. Hot drinks in particular will help you feel full and and soothe you. Stay away from fizzy drinks and any supermarket juices, as they are full of sugar and calories. Make your own fresh juices, and drink a lot of water.
Sensible snacks – Try fruits, nuts and vegetables. Things like rice cakes, a few crackers, anything small that helps fill you up. For tips, check out our great guide on healthy snacking.
Don’t make one slip up into a catastrophe – There will be days when you make a mistake and indulge yourself a bit. No big deal. Just avoid the mindset of “Well, since I have made a mistake already, I might as well make the most of it this evening / today”. This is a common mistake we all make and regret immediately after.