There's more to healthy eating and weight loss than simply tracking your food. The way you think about food, respond to hunger, and deal with cravings also affects your diet and overall health. Look up ''crave'' in the dictionary and you will find that it means ''to long for; want greatly; desire eagerly.'' So, it makes sense that you don’t usually crave specific foods due to physical hunger; cravings are often complex and happen for a variety of reasons, both physical and emotional. There is a big difference between a craving and actual hunger.
But cravings are not necessarily ''bad.'' They are normal and can have a place in any healthy lifestyle. However, constantly giving in to your cravings can lead to overeating and an unbalanced diet. Learning to satisfy your cravings in a controlled manner will keep your relationship with food in balance. Here are some common scenarios when cravings tend to strike—and how to bust them in a healthy way.
Craving culprit: You constantly crave specific (often sugary/salty) foods.
Bust it! Recognize that it’s okay to give into your cravings sometimes; it’s all a matter of portion control and moderation. Instead of immediately giving in to your craving, evaluate how you can satisfy it without derailing your meal plan for the day. Sometimes, the solution might be to have a small amount of what you’re craving. Other times, it might be best for you to find a healthier option for what you crave. Some people can handle having smaller portions of what they're craving, but others might feel that they won't be able to control themselves around any amount of certain ''trigger'' foods. This is a very individual response that varies from person to person, and it might take some time to find what works for you. Here are a few examples of how to bust some common food cravings, whether by downsizing what you're craving, or by substituting the craving with an alternative choice:
Craving culprit: You always crave foods at a specific time.
Bust it! Many people find themselves craving food at night time, or while they’re doing a specific activity (like watching TV). Track your cravings to help you notice patterns. If you tend to crave certain foods at night, always have a nutritious snack planned for the evening. Or, take up a nightly hobby that gets you out of the house and away from the kitchen, like taking an after-dinner walk with your family. If your cravings accompany an activity, try to associate that activity with something other than food. For example, if you always crave popcorn while watching a movie, try doing something else to keep your mouth and/or hands busy, like chewing gum, knitting, or squeezing a stress ball.
Craving culprit: You crave something simply because it’s in front of you.
Bust it! Always have snacks on hand in places where you know food might tempt you. Do donuts always seem to show up in the break room at work? Keep a stash of healthier snacks in your desk to munch on instead. Do you get hit with fast food cravings while on the road? Take something healthy with you to munch on in the car. By anticipating those triggers, you’ll be more prepared to face your cravings head-on.
Craving culprit: You crave foods for emotional reasons (stress, sadness, boredom, etc.)
Bust it! Stress can be a big trigger that causes people to overeat. Try taking a few minutes to de-stress before you reach for a bag of chips to see if reducing your stress curbs that impulsive desire. If you find you want to eat when you’re not hungry due to boredom, try getting outside for a walk or spending at least 10 minutes on an elliptical or treadmill. Try walking up and down the steps a few times, or soak in a hot bath. By doing an activity instead of immediately reaching for the food, you'll get your mind off the craving and onto something more productive.
Hungry for more tips? Check out these craving-busting ideas from SparkPeople members and experts!
What are your most common food cravings? How do you usually bust a craving?
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