Cravings are all too familiar to most of us… that urgent, insistent voice that tempts us to forget our healthy eating intentions and indulge. Some nutritionists believe there’s a biological reason behind our cravings for sweets, and even better, that this instinct can be un-learned.
Think about this… for much of our history, food was not nearly as plentiful as it is today. Once you really had to work hard to get what you ate – grow it or gather it or hunt it; today you can get calorie laden foods on every street corner… overloaded plates in any restaurant.
The trouble is, our brains haven’t quite adjusted to all the abundance of our modern world… long held instincts to survive famine have taught our brains to be aware of signs that high sources of calories are nearby. This may be why the cake on the desert cart is so irresistible… the morning breakfast place calling your name as you draw near.
Cravings go beyond our natural need to eat for survival. In fact, often hunger doesn’t even play a part in a craving, instead science considers them a complex cocktail of body, brain and chemical components that have us doing whatever we can to satisfy them. Not so much different from how a drug addict or alcoholic must feel about his/her substance of choice.
There’s also evidence that while some cravings are inborn, others come from the foods we consume in large amounts. Surround yourself with tasty goodies and that’s what you’ll crave. Proving the point, about a 30% of study subjects who were given a daily vanilla drink that was low in saturated fat, began to crave the drink after just two weeks, even though had a chalky consistency and none too tasty.
Japanese research also shows our cravings are determined by what’s around us with study findings showing that the majority of Japanese women desire sushi. Demonstrating that the cravings for some foods might be influenced by the food traditions in a particular culture.
While you can’t prevent cravings from coming on… you can do something to put them in their place. Here are six smart suggestions…
1. Clear out your cabinets – remove all signs of your treat of choice from the house, and if you have to have it for some special occasion, get rid of what remains quickly.
2. Carry healthy foods with you – so that if a craving hits, you’ll be ready. Apples, bananas and oranges are easy to transport fruits; or consider a bag of high fiber breakfast cereal you can keep in the car.
3. Have 100 calories worth of what you crave during the middle of your meal – eat a treat at the start of a meal and the brain gets the message that a craved food is associated with being satisfied and happy; eating treats when you’ve finished the meal and the brain remembers the food as the last good thing you tasted. The sandwich technique avoids both of these, and limits just how much you do take in.
4. Limit your TV viewing – all those hours each week in front of the TV also leave us subjected to lots of TV commercials… often for tasty snack foods and other treats. This fuels cravings. If you don’t want to limit your TV watching, at least get up and out of the room during the commercials.
5. Eat regularly – that is three healthy, balanced meals a day (including a fiber and protein rich breakfast), plus healthy snacks, so that you never go more than three hours without food. This way your appetite won’t have a chance to get out of control.
6. Stay hydrated – as water keeps your stomach full and acts like a natural appetite suppressant and helps your body metabolize stored fat. By staying hydrated you keep symptoms like false cravings and hunger from taking over.
The good news for those wanting to control food cravings is that the victory, once you’ve achieved it, is total. It seems that when people give up the foods they crave, the treat in question becomes very unappealing after a time. Maybe it’s the sensation of the greasy food… the overpowering taste of a single ingredient or the intensity of the sweetness that starts to become repulsive.
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