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How to Control Food Cravings

Food cravings refer to an intense desire to eat a certain food. Unlike hunger pangs which are driven by mainly physiological needs, food cravings evoke a powerful emotion of longing for a specific food item.

Causes of Food Cravings

Food cravings have been attributed to both physiological and psychological causes.

Physiological causes
Cure Food Cravings

Some people believe that food cravings are your body’s way of telling you that it needs a specific type of nutrient. For instance, athletes crave for carbohydrates after a game to restore blood sugar that has been depleted by energy expended while playing.

Similarly, low levels of serotonin are believed to bring about cravings for foods containing high amounts of carbohydrates. Serotonin is the feel-good hormone responsible for creating feelings of happiness and well-being. As your serotonin level drops, your body may try to self-medicate by eating foods high in carbohydrates like pasta, starchy food and sweets.

Psychological causes

Experts have since discarded the physiological links to food cravings and now maintain that psychological factors play a bigger role in explaining food cravings. They observed that food cravings differ among persons and that what one person craves for is more likely to be some food that is associated with happy times during one’s childhood. Food cravings also appear to be emotional responses to stress, depression and anxiety.

Male vs Female Food Cravings

Men and women share similar cravings for foods that are high in fat and calories although women experience food cravings more often than men. Women tend to look for pastries and sweets while men seek out steaks, barbeques and French fries. Furthermore, in a survey of food cravings conducted among men and women, women experienced food cravings when they were upset, depressed or sad while men had cravings when they felt happy and excited.

How to Control Food Cravings

Uncontrolled food cravings for high-fat, high calorie foods may lead to obesity. Your first step in dealing with food cravings is to recognise the triggers and your food of choice. The following are some tips you can use to control your food cravings:

1. Get proper nourishment

Eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water to curb your hunger pangs. Water makes you feel full and helps keep your mind off your food cravings. Ideally, you should drink 8 to 10 glasses of water every day, and slightly more if you exercise.

2. Moderation is key

Complete avoidance of certain foods may initially work but as your resistance wears out, you may give in by going on a food binge. If you crave for foods that are high in sugar and fat, feed your body something sweet in small amounts to satisfy that need. By giving in to your cravings in small amounts, you are able to satiate yourself without wreaking havoc to your diet.

3. Deal with stress

Since stress and other emotional factors may trigger food cravings, it is best to deal with the cause of your food cravings by maintaining a positive outlook, engaging in a hobby, and practising stress reduction techniques.

4. Distract yourself

Food cravings last an average of twenty minutes. Deal with cravings by engaging in an activity that requires mental focus. Examples are brisk walking or an online game to take your mind off the temptation. Avoid sedentary activities like watching TV or videos that are identified with snacks and junk food.

Understanding that your food cravings are not usually signs of nutrient deficiency, but of a complex combination of psychological and physiological factors, may help you deal with food cravings as they strike.


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