16 Oct 5 Common Causes Of Food Cravings
Food cravings can be a challenge for anyone trying to lose weight or maintain a weight they’re happy at. Instead of battling against cravings and relying on willpower, we support our clients in getting to the root cause. Tackling the underlying causes of your food cravings and overcoming them can help free you from their grip and support your weight loss. In this article we’ll take a look at five of the most common causes of food cravings and what you can do to tackle them.
5 COMMON CAUSES OF FOOD CRAVINGS
STARCHY CARB BASED MEALS
We tend to base our meals around starchy carbohydrates. Wheat based products like breakfast cereals, bread, pasta and white flour products make up a substantial amount of our diet. But basing our meals around these foods can create a blood sugar rollercoaster. When we eat foods high in starchy carbs or sugars our blood sugar rises rapidly. The body wants to maintain a state of balance, so to counter this high level of sugar in the blood stream it releases insulin to carry the sugar away into cells. When this happens, our blood sugar dips and that’s when we experience cravings for foods that will increase our blood sugar once again. And so the cycle continues.
How to tackle it: Balancing your blood sugar levels is key in combating cravings. The glycemic index rates carbohydrates on how quickly they break down into simple sugars. Here’s our guide to the glycemic index if you’re interested in learning more. Sticking to smaller portions of lower glycemic carbs is key in combatting cravings. Instead of basing your meals on bread, pasta or rice, include more non-starchy vegetables in your meals. Aim to fill half of your plate with a variety of different coloured vegetables. If they’re seasonal and organic, even better.
LACK OF PROTEIN
Protein fills us up and keeps us satisfied in a way that carbohydrates don’t. Eating protein with carbohydrates will also help to slow the release of those carbohydrates into the bloodstream. This helps to prevent those blood sugar fluctuations we mentioned earlier. Lack of protein at mealtimes can be a big cause of food cravings.
How to tackle it: Ensure you include good quality protein at all mealtimes. Good sources of protein include eggs, fish, seafood, organic meat, tofu and tempeh. Foods like beans, chick peas, lentils and quinoa provide a combination of protein and carbohydrates. If you’re making a smoothie, add in a scoop of good quality protein powder. And if you do need an afternoon snack, choose a protein rich one.
Lack of sleep is a huge driver for cravings. When we don’t get enough sleep our body produces more of the hunger hormone ghrelin and less leptin, the hormone that makes us feel full. If you don’t sleep enough you’re more likely to experience cravings. And chances are, it won’t be salad you find yourself craving.
How to tackle it: Work on getting at least eight hours a night. Set a regular bedtime (and stick to it). Minimise alcohol intake; drinking hugely compromises sleep quality. Avoid screens at least an hour before bed. If you can’t do this, wear blue light blocking glasses. Cut out caffeine in the afternoon and include physical activity in your daily routine.
Stress, sadness, loneliness, boredom… a wide range of emotions can trigger a desire to eat when you’re not actually hungry. Many of us were taught to associate treat foods with positive feelings. Cake at birthdays, mince pies at Christmas, sweets or a meal out as a reward for good behaviour or academic achievements. It’s no wonder we have come to associate eating with making us feel better. That’s before you consider how certain foods change our biochemistry. Chocolate, for example, contains compounds known to have mood-enhancing effects.
How to tackle it: First, get clear on what triggers your desire to eat. One of the best ways to do this is to keep a food and mood journal noting down everything you eat and how you feel at the time. Don’t put pressure on yourself to follow a restrictive diet plan. The idea is to get clear on what’s driving your desire to eat foods that aren’t supporting you. You may notice common themes start to appear. For example, do you find yourself running out to buy a brownie or other sweet treat when someone has upset you? Or maybe you’re in the habit of mindlessly roaming the kitchen cupboards when you’re bored in the evening? Once you’ve worked out the trigger, you can find a more supportive habit to replace it with.
NOT ENOUGH FOOD
It may come as no surprise that not eating enough can leave you craving food. If you’re trying to lose weight, cutting your calories to as few as possible is not the solution. Your body needs nourishment. If it doesn’t get what it needs, cravings are its way of trying to get you to eat more. It is possible to lose weight and maintain a weight you’re happy at without having to be constantly hungry and battling cravings.
How to tackle it: Even if you are trying to lose weight, you do not have to drop your calories so low that you are in a constant state of hunger. It is possible to lose weight quickly and effectively without suffering from endless cravings and hunger. Read our guide on how to structure balanced meals to ensure that you’re eating in a way that fills you up and keeps you satisfied.
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If you are looking to lose weight, we can help you overcome your weight challenges, reach your happy weight and maintain it long term. Book yourself in for a complimentary 25 mintue call or contact us and a member of our team will be in touch soon. We can talk through your challenges and explore whether one of our Intelligent Weight Loss programmes is right for you.