Confused looking woman with chocolate and apple trying to make a healthy choice control her body weight isolated on gray wall background. Human face expression. Dieting  concept

Get the Food Cravings to Go

I’m pretty sure every single one of us has experienced a ‘food craving.’ It’s when you tell yourself you just must have this particular edible item. Whether it’s a particular brand of chocolate bar, ice cream from your favourite deli, or a big plate of buttery pasta you’ve just spotted on an advert on TV, it can seem almost impossible to resist.

But why are they so strong and what can you do to prevent them?

Chemical causes of food cravings

Low Serotonin

Serotonin is the chemical that makes us feel happy. Eating sugar and carbs gives us a rush of serotonin – but it doesn’t last. In fact, we feel lower than ever when we crash back down again because those same foods have caused our blood sugar levels to yo-yo. Serotonin isn’t found in food but tryptophan is an amino-acid which helps produce serotonin and can be found in foods such as nuts (especially walnuts) and seeds, tofu and cheese.

Leptin resistance

Leptin is a hormone which the body uses to tell us when we’re hungry and need to eat. If we have too much leptin in our fat tissue (where it’s stored) then we’ll eat more. The reason we would have t much is we have too much body fat in the first place and if we eat too many sugary foods and fast-acting carbs such as white bread, white rice and cakes.

Non-chemical causes of food cravings

Phantom hunger

How often have you reached for a packet of crisps or slice of pizza knowing full well that you’re not really hungry but rather you’re simply fed-up or are feeling a bit low and want cheering up? Emotional triggers is probably the biggest cause of food cravings. The way to fix this is to find a replacement activity ie ring a friend if you’re upset or go for a walk in the park when park – both should make you feel better about yourself than polishing off a bag of chips.

Ways to knock food cravings on the head

Remember it’ll pass. The great thing about food cravings is that they don’t last. The smoker who has given up knows that if he/she can get through the three seconds when he thinks of nothing else but a cigarette, that the craving will have passed. The same goes for food.

Eat more fibre and good protein. Changing to a diet which prevents your blood sugar levels from spiking and plummeting doesn’t mean that you can’t have chocolate – just make sure it’s dark. Have carbs too, in the form of brown rice and wholewheat bread. Make it easier for yourself by avoiding your trigger foods for up to 21 days (by which time you should have lost the taste for them).

Check your thirst levels. Sometimes we think we’re hungry when actually we’re just thirsty. A good way to tell for sure is to gulp down (rather than sip) a glass of water while walking around for a few minutes and thinking about something else. If by the time the glass is finished you’re not thinking about food any more, you were simply thirsty.

Get active outdoors. Exercising, such as walking, cycling and running helps to boost our serotonin levels and at the same time suppresses appetite (a handy combination!). The sun meanwhile makes us feel happier and less likely to ‘comfort eat.’

Rest with meditation. Meditation is a great way to recharge the batteries and stop us feeling stressed (when the temptation to snack on carbs or sugary snacks often rears its ugly head).
Practice the above list and next time a friend chucks a packet of crisps at you in the pub, you’ll be able to cheerfully throw them right back.

did you find these stories inspiring?

READ MORE STORIES