Cravings are the antagonist to any diet because it has the potential to make or break you. That one chocolate bar you are craving for could be just that—one candy bar—or it could lead to an all-out binge. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the effect of restriction. By not eating the chocolate bar on that day, you could be developing eating habits that could lead to a misaligned relationship with food down the road.
These are three scenarios that could plague even seasoned dieters. Try these tips to help manage your cravings:
- If you are craving for sweets, have some fruit first.
Our bodies are very complex. If you are craving for something sweet, there could be a reason for it. Cravings for sweets are common in low-carb diets because the body is in a deficit. By increasing the cravings for sweets, your body is basically telling you to ingest carbohydrates.
Pasta, white bread, and white rice are not bad sources of carbohydrates, but they are fast absorbing and hit your bloodstream more quickly than a whole-grain alternative. As a result, your blood sugar spikes and insulin is released. If you are trying to prevent that from happening on a weight loss diet, you may want to try low-glycemic fruits instead like berries and watermelon. Watermelon used to be known as a fear fruit because it contains a lot of sugar, but its glycemic load is very low because of the high water content.
- If you feel hungry 30 minutes after a meal, maybe you lack nutrients.
Let’s say you’re ravenously hungry because you skipped lunch and you decide to snack on some gummy bears. You eat a 60g serving and it’s enough for now. Thirty minutes later, you’re hungry again. How can that be? You just consumed a snack that has at least 30-40g of carbohydrates. That should tie you over for at least an hour or so. What is your body telling you this time?
When you are hungry, then eat, then feel hungry again very soon after, it’s a sign that you didn’t get the proper nutrients that your body needs. Constant hunger is a sign of nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition. It’s not enough to get your calories in; you also have to make sure that you food sources are rich in vitamins and minerals. Don’t just look at the calorie count of an item and assume that that’s enough. Yes, it’s enough to keep you alive, but that doesn’t mean you are healthy on the inside. Don’t just aim to keep your body alive. Keep it in the healthiest shape possible.
- If you are craving for chocolate around the time you get your period, it might be better to just have it.
Around the time women get their periods, there is a drop in serotonin that can leave them feeling anxious, depressed and emotional—more so than normal. It is around this time when cravings for chocolate start to emerge. Why chocolate? Why not other foods like burgers or pizza?
Studies show that chocolate has the ability to boost serotonin levels in the body. We may not consciously make the decision to eat something that boosts serotonin levels, but again, the body is complex and has cravings for a reason. If you find yourself uncharacteristically craving for chocolate around your period, it may be a good idea to have a small serving instead of fighting it.
- Are you hungry but can’t think of a specific food that you want to eat?
Feelings of hunger and thirst are confused all the time. Sometimes you are actually thirsty, not hungry. Don’t start eating full meals when you could just drink a glass of water first to make sure. When you’re trying to lose weight, you don’t want to starve yourself, but you also want to make sure that you’re not ingesting more calories than necessary. Remember, net loss of calories is still a requirement in fat/weight loss.
If you find yourself constantly hungry, it might be a good idea to monitor your fluid intake. This includes juices, coffee, tea and shakes, in addition to pure water. This way, you can observe if your hungry pangs go up when you have less water in your system. Adequate water intake is so important because the majority of the body is comprised of water. Without it, body processes are affected including your performance, subcutaneous water retention, cell regeneration and many more.
- Maybe they aren’t cravings. You might just be hungry, period.
It’s normal to feel a little hungry when you’re on a diet. You shouldn’t be starving yourself, but it’s still necessary to burn more calories than you consume. How do you know if you’re really hungry and not just craving for something? You look at your food intake for the day.
What have you eaten so far? Have you eaten enough? Did you exercise and deplete your energy stores? When was your last meal?
Try to think about your food intake so far and assess whether you need food or not. Start with a small meal and let that sit for a while. If you still feel hungry after a few minutes, you can eat another small snack to tie you over until you can have a proper meal. A great snack when you cant afford the extra calories are strawberries because they are low in calories and high in fiber, potassium, vitamin C and antioxidants! Never let your hunger get out of hand because you will have a harder time resisting the urge to stuff your face.
Everyone has cravings. No two people will react to these feelings the same way. Others can completely ignore them without it affecting their mood and disposition, but some cannot. If you are craving for a piece of fruit and you know that it’s well within your calorie intake for the day, by all means have it. If you are craving for a large pizza after you’ve just had a ½ lb. burger with fries, a milkshake and a slice of cake, then you should think about a lighter alternative. Find your balance!