It’s human to experience cravings and want to indulge in your senses. The problem comes when it’s in excess and interferes with our intention to eat a healthier diet.
Down below I share my favourite tips to help you become mindful of your actions and gain control of your eating habits.
Are you hungry?
There is a difference between hunger and cravings. The first step is getting in tune with your body, so you can decipher the two.
Cravings are typically triggered by emotions, boredom or memories that evoke dopamine, like eating ice cream by the beach as a kid. If you resonate with any of these you’re most likely not hungry.
Hunger is a feeling of discomfort or weakness, caused by lack of food. You typically experience physical sensations like stomach growling and emptiness, or low energy. Think of a bland meal, like turkey & green beans. Then ask yourself if this is something you would eat. If yes then you know you’re hungry!
Thirst and hunger share symptoms that are similar to each other. So it’s easy to confuse the two. Next time you think you’re hungry practice drinking a glass of water first. You’ll be surprised by how often you’ll be able to quench what you thought was your appetite.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation can influence hormones that affect our hunger signals. This can lead to higher ghrelin and lower leptin levels. Ghrelin increases appetite and leptin decreases it. This makes us less conscious and in control of our eating habits. Try getting 7-9 hours of deep sleep each night.
Eat balanced meals
Do you find yourself constantly snacking throughout the day or binging late at night? You might not be eating enough, or at least enough of the right foods.
Refined carbs and carb based meals like cereal, pasta and bread are digested faster and tend to spike blood sugar levels. This can lead to a dip then crash in energy. Essentially making you look for more fuel.
Try eating carbs in their whole form, where they’re dense in fiber and nutrients. Practice adding healthy sources of protein (chicken, eggs, cheese) and fat (almond butter, avocado) into your meals too. These two macronutrients take longer to digest and will help slow down the absorption of sugar from any carbs in your meal. This will keep you satiated for longer.
And if you find yourself binging late at night, it’s more likely that you aren’t eating enough throughout the day. A lot of people do this as a means to lose weight, but it typically backfires. Avoid skipping breakfast, lunch and dinner. Eat at regular time periods and keep your meals macro balanced. You’ll notice it’ll be easier to control yourself at night.
Shape your environment
Out of sight out of mind. You’ll be more tempted by your cravings when you bring them home. So just don’t, simple as that!
Bring fresh and healthy food into your home and that’s what you’ll lean towards. A step above this would be to make a grocery list so you don’t get tempted when shopping. Then meal prep healthy and delicious recipes for the week ahead. You can find my post about that here.
When a craving hits hard, you aren’t hungry and you know you’d feel better without it.. create space and distract yourself. Take 20 minutes to move yourself into a new environment and do something to keep your mind off food. Paint your nails, write in your journal, read a book, draw, practice playing an instrument or get something off your to do list done. These things will help shift your focus and give you that sense of pleasure elsewhere.
Brush your teeth
Brushing your teeth after your last meal of the day sounds so simple, but it actually makes a big difference on late night snacking. You won’t want to brush your teeth twice, food won’t taste the same and It’ll trick your mind into thinking that meal time is over.
Allow yourself to indulge
Indulging in your cravings isn’t the end of the world. Pleasure is part of a healthy lifestyle and so is balance.
You’re more likely to binge on something when you feel you’ll be deprived of it for awhile. And you’re more likely to remain consistent with your health goals when you allow yourself to be human. The key is moderation.
Give space 1-2x a week for yourself to indulge. Not a whole day’s worth of indulgence, just one meal or snack. Then move on with your life and get right back into your usual habits. If the majority of your diet is full of fresh whole foods it will outweigh any choices outside of that.