By: Dr. Eeks
They Are Beasts: But You Need to Manage Your Cravings to Get to Your Ideal Weight
Cravings are the number one reason people give up on a healthy eating plan. They can be beasts, but they are manageable. Below are a several researched-based tips that may help you win the war against cravings.
Visualize the Shape of a Craving & Realize You Can Beat It:
I don’t mean visualize a triangle for a slice of pizza or a circle for a donut. Those visions will make cravings worse. I mean visualize the path of your desire. A craving is an intense desire that follows a bell-shaped curve. The craving for a particular food starts (often late in the day), increases in intensity for approximately 20-30 minutes, hits the point of greatest intensity, and then decreases till you no longer have the craving. If we were creatures of infinite will power, we would be able to beat cravings by realizing they are temptations with limited lifespans. The problem is that most people give in to the craving during the 20-30 minutes of increasing intensity. The key is to get yourself over the upside of the bell-shaped curve without giving in to the craving.
Women Suffer the Most from Cravings and Women Crave Chocolate the Most, while Men Crave Burgers the Most
Whether it is chocolate, pizza, chocolate-covered pizza or whatever other food drives you wild, you should not have the foods you crave in your house. Giving in to cravings is associated with increased body mass, and cravings for fattening foods are linked to obesity. Therefore, prevent yourself from having easy access to the foods you crave the most. There are gender differences when it comes to cravings. Women crave chocolate the most, and 92% of all people who crave chocolate are female. Men crave things like burgers and pizza the most. Women also struggle more than men when it comes to controlling cravings.
Restricting Craved Foods Does NOT Increase Cravings for the Restricted Food
The idea that restricting certain foods will increase cravings for the restricted food is a big fat Myth that many people believe to be true. Research says the opposite. In one study people who restricted a specific food had decreased cravings for the restricted food, and this effect lasted for as long as two years.
Cravings do NOT represent the “wisdom of the body”
There is no hard core evidence for this, and the majority of evidence speaks against this. An example is salty foods. Many people crave salt, yet, on average, we eat 3200 mgs of salt per day, while the recommended amount is 500 mgs. We often crave salt, but we definitely do not NEED salt.
Be Mindful that Aromas Can Trigger Cravings:
We know very little about what causes food cravings. The reason is probably multi-factorial, involving genetics, hormonal changes, neural circuitry, the environment and more. One thing we do know is that aromas can trigger food cravings. Everyone can relate to smelling great food and then feeling and hearing our stomachs growl.
Liquid Adult Dieters have a Higher Chance of Struggling with Cravings:
A food craving can be indicative of someone needing more variety in his or her diet. Young adults who follow hardcore liquid diets have a higher chance of developing cravings for solid food, due to nutritional monotony. This phenomenon isn’t observed in the elderly, however, which can set the stage for nutritional deficiencies.
Low Carb vs Low Fat:
The evidence is mixed when it comes to figuring out if a low carb or a low fat diet is better for managing cravings for the long-term. Research shows that individuals who follow a low-carb diet are less bothered by hunger than those that follow a low-fat diet. However, individuals who follow a low-carb diet crave carbohydrates less, and individuals who follow a low fat diet crave fattening foods less.
Cravings are heavily linked to a woman’s menstrual cycle and are shown to significantly increase three days prior to menstruation and three days after. Every woman can relate to the PMS munchies. Be mindful of this and try not to over-indulge during this time.
It COULD be a Nutritional Deficiency:
Cravings have been linked to specific nutrient deficiencies. A deficiency in Magnesium has been linked to a chocolate craving. A Zinc deficiency has been linked to craving carbohydrates. Sugar cravings have been linked to a chromium deficiency, and food cravings in general have been linked to a Vitamin B6 deficiency.
More Practical Tips for Beating Cravings:
- Eat something healthy instead of the unhealthy food you crave. In other words, turn your “cake hole” into a “carrot hole.” Usually when you eat something else, your brain will be sufficiently tricked and your stomach will be sufficiently satisfied so your craving goes away entirely.
- Exercise. It can squelch a budding craving.
- Rinse with Mouthwash or brush your teeth when you get a craving. ( We typically use these things after we eat, so it’s a behavioral signal to our brain that we are done eating.)
- Post a picture of a cute outfit you eventually want to wear on your cupboard or refrigerator. It should motivate you to not give in.
If you have any other tips for beating cravings, feel free to post in the comment section below.