Ah cravings! What a love-hate relationship they are, am i right?! We ALL get them no matter how clean the diet or how strong-willed. Let's face it, we are merely humans and our world is filled to the brim with visual cues, smells, and marketing that can generate a craving out of nowhere! NOT exactly helpful when you're trying to make progress towards a health goal. So if we can't prevent them from occurring, what can we do when they show their ugly heads?
Read on for 5 Ways to Tame Your Food Cravings!
1) Wait 20 minutes
Food cravings are typically very fleeting, usually triggered by something that entered our universe or line of sight ("I SEE you, coworker Susan's homemade cookies!") without invitation. The more you listen to that tempting voice, the louder it will seem. Before you dig in, devote your attention for 20 minutes to something else. Set a timer if you need to, but chances are, once your momentum and energy is placed elsewhere, you'll forget the craving even existed in the first place.
2) Brush your teeth
The programming of our brain is a funny thing, and it all starts in childhood! Next time you feel the desire to go on an unplanned snack attack, try brushing your teeth first. This act signals to the brain that we are done eating for the day (or at least for that meal), meaning cravings will have less power over you. You'll also enjoy the sweet minty taste that is sometimes JUST enough to nip that craving in the bud. And let's face it, most foods don't taste very good with that minty taste lingering around.
3) Drink some tea with lemon or decaf coffee
Sometimes a craving may hit after a meal out of a desire to prolong the calming effect eating gives us. Sweets in particular are commonly craved after meals since sugar consumption lights up the dopamine (rewards) centers of our brain and enhances the happy hormone, serotonin. A healthier alternate to turning to the candy bowl and ruining your healthy meal is drinking hot lemon water or making tea with fresh squeezed lemon juice. Easy to do if you are at home during the day, but also simple to do elsewhere if you get in the habit of keeping lemon wedges with you (in your bag, in your office refrigerator, a spare water bottle in your car). Lemon juice helps to hydrate us, which tames and stabilized our hunger hormones. Lemon juice also reduces blood sugar levels that rise after meals, which may be the culprit behind those post-meal desires for sweets.
If you don't have any lemon around, sometimes just having something IN OUR HANDS helps us prolong the relaxation we get from a meal. Grab a plain hot tea or a decaf coffee (if after 1 or 2pm), sip slowly, and enjoy.
4) Talk to your craving
That's right...just like you're talking to that guy or girl you broke up with once. Don't ignore a craving when it arrives because they only makes it worse. Acknowledge it respectfully, bat your lashes and say "hello", and then say with confidence, "It's been fun (insert food item), and we will have more fun times, but right now you do not serve my desires and my goals."
Talking to your craving respects your desire but also reminds you of your mission and values. So have some mantras locked and loaded to help you turn them down with confidence and pride!
5) Get out the Essential Oils
Let's finish off with what some may find a little "woo-woo"! Essential oils are concentrated forms of extracts from various plants that can do many things from reducing stress to boosting our mood. They do this by having a subtle effect on our hormones, which when it comes to cravings, is HUGE! So what are the magic extracts that help master that 3:00 snack attack? Turn your attention to peppermint, lemon and grapefruit.
Peppermint (oh hey toothpaste!!) has been shown to decrease sugar cravings by lowering our hunger hormones like leptin. You can use it in a diffuser to breathe it in, but you can also find ingestible oils you can drop into a glass of water. Just a drop or two should do the trick.
Citrus essential oils, like lemon and grapefruit, comes from the peels of these fruits. The benefit to this is they extract powerful polyphenols and pectins that aren't obtained as easily from the juice. Pectins are a natural fiber in these fruits that reduces appetite. Polyphenols are full of anti-oxidants and also help regulate our metabolism of sugars and fats, reducing any negative effects that may linger after a meal such as raised blood glucose. This in term helps maintain a stable hormone balance, and thus less cravings.
Next time you have a craving (and it will happen)...
...give one or two of these strategies a shot. It's not easy creating new habits. It takes PURPOSEFUL action initially before something begins to feel less uncomfortable and more natural. But be patient, be persistent, take deep breaths, and never give up on achieving your best balance.