We know cravings can be influenced by physical factors like an energy deficit or hormone fluctuations, but they’re also influenced by factors like emotions, stress and how our brains process sensory cues, such as the sight and smell of food.
Here are four powerful tactics you can use to outwit cravings.
1. Build higher-protein meals.
Aim to get 30 percent or more of your calories from protein if you’re struggling with feeling hungry and are prone to junk-food cravings. To do that you’ll want to incorporate high protein foods, such as eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, or a some protein powder into every meal.
2. Identify emotional triggers.
When you’re seized by a craving, it’s easy to tune out everything else, but try to sense what emotions you were feeling just before the craving hit.
What was it that triggered the urge to eat?
Stopping these cravings starts with recognising and breaking patterns you have between unpleasant feelings and food intake.
Each time you feel like eating in response to that emotional stimulus, instead try writing down your feelings, talk to a friend or allow yourself the space to just feel the emotion without giving in to the temptation. Overtime the urges will weaken until eventually the emotion no longer triggers the urge.
3. Confine sugar to an occasional treat.
Eating foods that are high in added sugars causes the brain to release the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine, a reward signal that not only gives us pleasure, but also makes us crave more.
If you don’t want to cut out sugar completely, you can use this information to strategically choose when you want to enjoy your sweet treats. If you want to have some chocolate or some other treat, the best time to do it is when you’re not overly emotional and after you’ve already eaten.
With some food already in your stomach, you will have an easier time stopping after one portion and won’t encourage compulsive cravings for more and more sugar.
4. Get an extra hour or two of sleep.
Research indicates that even healthy adults who have no sleep concerns are typically still sleep-deprived just enough to render their brains hyperresponsive to food cues.
So even if you feel like you’re getting by just fine on six hours of shut-eye each night, your sleep habits might be leaving you vulnerable to the allure of food.
To bolster your self-control over snack attacks, prioritise getting seven hours of sleep as a minimum, particularly during the holidays, when surprise sweets can cross your path a dozen times a day, so that extra pillow time can help you avoid packing on the pounds.