Are you wondering why are you craving certain foods and certain times? It happens to each one of us. The thing is to observe and recognize what the cause is. Because basically your hunger hormones were released for a reason. But are you aware of some possible reasons?
It is a reason if you crave something once a week or every day. Often food cravings can be frustrating and overwhelming because it feels that you can't control them.
When this happens it is time to find the source. The best thing is to start a 'food-mood journal', track your foods and your emotions, thoughts before and after the meal. Also, it is time for mindfulness, to slow down, observe these situations.
I was experiencing huge craving spikes when I was strictly dieting for a long time. On my mind was only food, when I was eating I was already thinking about the next food. The fact that I was experiencing huge hormonal imbalances due to my dieting and developed an eating disorder. I divide dieting into two categories - diet for any competition or performance and diet for the usual population, the person who wants to lose weight for health or esthetic reasons. And yes, diet is not always easy BUT. In the case of competitors, they should not complain because this is what did they decided to go for. And so sometimes these diets are drastic. When clients come to me without any desire of competing, their diet should be challenging but not causing any following health complications, imbalances and disorders. This is a very known case when people start their journey and they become obsessed with dieting and sometimes lack knowledge get them into a different place than they expected.
If you want to gain some knowledge from nutrition, go check my NUTRITION E-book for Beginners. The E-book is full of basic and important info for anyone who wants to start their new fitness lifestyle.
7 COMMON CAUSES of FOOD CRAVINGS
You are tired - poor sleep and lack of rest can cause food craving (especially for processed foods), your body simply asking for fast fuel
You are dehydrated - around 70% of the body is made up of water, hunger and thirst are closely related and dehydration is very common
You are stressed or anxious - chronic stress increases the level of cortisol, which increases appetite. In this case, stress and anxiety may lead to overeating and binge-eating (emotional eating).
You've got nutritional deficiencies - you need to nourish your body and so when your body doesn't get enough nutrients, it will send messages in form of craving. This is usually caused by eating processed foods rich in added fat and sugar and may cause addiction-like symptoms which will increase feelings of craving again.
You're experiencing hormonal imbalances - leptin and ghrelin are two hunger hormones and when they are out of balance, you may experience sudden and even uncontrollable feelings of hunger and craving. In the worse scenario, you may become LEPTIN RESISTANT - your body doesn't react to signals of leptin to make you stop eating.
Another well-known scenario is PMS, oh hello! The changes in estrogen and progesterone right before your period causes your food cravings.
You're undereating and/or restricting too much/too long - it is common that during the diet you are hungry. But people very often do not have a proper diet plan and periodization for their diet. This can turn into long-term restrictions, even eating disorders. When you're dieting it is important to have some refeed days. If you're just restricting yourself thinking that it will help you lose weight, you're wrong. Constant restricting (especially complex carbs and healthy fats), depriving yourself of sweets, letting yourself over-hungry will lead to higher cravings and potential overeating.
You've created a habit - your brain can associate eating a specific food to a specific context. Basically, some situations may be triggers of craving - you have a memory, association, and/or you've created a habit of eating certain foods in certain situations (popcorn in the cinema, crisps when watching TV, sweet treat at any possible situation, etc.)
I've put together some tips on what to do when you feel you crave something and not sure if you are actually hungry. The best and first advice is MINDFULNESS. Meaning, being fully aware of the presence, of your feeling, listening to your body. If your sudden cravings are the main obstacle in achieving your goal, you should learn to stop and observe your thoughts and feelings. Ask yourself if you are really hungry, if your body really needs what you have in your mind, imagine how will you feel afterwards, will there be any regrets or even guilt?
11 Tips on How To Control & Stop Foods Craving
1. Have a Meal Plan In The Right Place - Knowing what you want to achieve is the crucial part of any journey. In order to achieve success in your diet and fitness goals, you may need a meal plan that is adjusted to your own preferences, health condition, your body composition and of course your fitness goal. That means you may need to seek help from someone in the industry. Consider your overall health, fitness level and experience, your knowledge in nutrition and think about what you really need and want to achieve. My clients always have tailored plan that is updated during the time, everything is tracked from your energy levels, craving and hunger, mood, sex drive etc. It is important you feel comfortable, happy and see progress as you go. Because what else can motivate you more than your own progress and feelings about yourself.
Also, your meal plan should be rich in different sources of nutrients. In most cases, the reason for craving and hunger attacks is too restricted diet a long period of time. Allow yourself to have a break and do not get obsessed with dieting and restricting. Think about it this way - you want to create life long habits and a sustainable lifestyle for your health and fitness goals. Avoid, any short cuts, drastic diets and magic pills.
2. Drink Your Water - Hunger and thirst can produce very similar sensations, potentially leading people to confuse the feeling of thirst for hunger. Stay hydrated during the day is the priority. From the time I've learnt to have my water every time and everywhere, not only I can be aware of my feeling of thirst and hunger but being hydrated gives you more energy and help your body in many other ways. If you desire something fancier, you can choose still or sparkling water and add a little lemon, lime, mint, cucumber, even a piece of fruit such as orange, grapefruit or pomegranate. The point is to avoid beverages that are artificially sweetened.
3. Get a Good Amount Of Quality Sleep - Sleep, sleep & sleep. Especially if you are physically active, you should get at least 7-9 hours of quality sleep. I totally understand that sometimes it just doesn't work out. I love to wake up very early and start my day on my own, do my morning routine before anything else. Also, we sometimes have to sacrifice sleep for work and other responsibilities. But try to work on your sleep routine, prepare your body in the evening with a little self-care and hygiene. Sleep deficiencies may cause hormonal imbalances that are responsible that you are hungrier and craving foods during the day.
4. Limit Stress - Chronic stress is not good for your body in any way. In terms of your diet, stress and emotional eating can influence a variety of health issues and may lead to eating disorders and food addictions. Stress also results in higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, which may promote abdominal fat. So really take care of your mental health, clear a schedule for some me-time and include some sort of self-care activity that gives you space to stop for a while, reflect, relax, unwind and observe your thoughts.
5. Choose a healthier snack - Snacking is one of the obstacles for many people. One thing is that is developed a bad habit but there are many options how to choose a healthier snack that gives you proper nutrients and make you feel satisfied. Try to think smart. Instead of some muesli bar or similar bar, go for a piece of fruit, or try some new fresh juice/smoothie, include plain nuts or 100% nut butter. My snack number one is the cottage cheese, with some fruit, nuts and 0 calorie syrup (I use always from the Skinny food co., they have a huge range of products from sweet to savoury 0 calorie syrups - I have a 10% OFF link for you HERE). Another tip is a rice cake with some salad, ham, houmous and beetroot, or a smoothie with added flax/chia/hemp seeds and maca/ashwagandha. Try to seek some snack that is beneficial to your body and that makes you excited not only before but especially after eating.
6. Avoid Trans Fats & Added Sugars - This is one of the best pieces of advice. To prevent leptin surges and blood sugar crashes that pump your appetite, avoid processed foods rich in trans fats and added sugars as much as possible. It is no secret that sugar works at the same principle as a drug and can become addictive. You eat a chocolate bar and still not satisfied. Yes, this is it. You can still enjoy tasty treats, just whip them up with lower sugar, some zero-calorie sweetener, add some fibre and protein. From my journey, yes I know these things are great, but after years of practice, I don't desire them - I have my own solutions for healthy snacks and I don't crave sugary and processed foods because they keep you satisfied for a couple of minutes.
7. Eat Enough Protein & Fibre With Every Meal - Whether you track your calories and macros or not, protein is your priority. Before every meal, think about a protein source and build your meal around it. You should get from a range of 1.5-2.5g of protein for every kg of your body weight. This will help your metabolic rate, protein synthesis as well as keep you feel full longer and reduce cravings.
In the article HERE, you will find everything you need to know about the IMPORTANCE OF PROTEIN.
8. Break The Habit - Some food cravings may be due to long-term habits as I mentioned before. It may be difficult to replace them from the beginning because your taste buds have a fantastic memory and your brain just get used to some old habits. Try to plan your little 21-day challenge without trigger foods. Get some ideas from the reading above, find your healthier options and go for it. You will learn to love your new diet habits, you will be proud of yourself and you will start to crave healthy, whole foods once you begin to make them your new habit. The junk food just won't taste the same, believe me!
9. Follow the 80/20 Rule - I consider this rule as a flexible dieting approach which sometimes is for more advanced people who already know their foods even without tracking. However, it is an amazing approach, that also trains your mind. Basically, 80% of the time you eat healthy and whole foods and in the rest of 20%, you can enjoy any of your favourite treats, or anything you desire. When you get to this point of flexible dieting and seeing results as well as you feel great about yourself and in your own body, you just achieved the main lifestyle change!
10. Keep Yourself Busy - Have a planner and have your day planned ahead. When you keep yourself busy, you won't be thinking about what's your next snack and food gonna be! If you're still in lockdown it may seem more difficult to entertain yourself. But it is really only the question of determination and action. Find yourself some activity so your brain is busy. You may go for walk, read a book, listen to a podcast, try some home yoga class, work on something/create something, have a self-care time, do some cleaning, contact your family or friends. Literally, the options are countless and don't forget to practice mindfulness. ☺️
If you feel kind of exhausted and frustrated with constantly thinking about food, you should start to seek the cause. Definitely, start with the food journal and practice mindfulness in the first place. Then look at your current diet and eating style, your body may miss some important nutrients that can develop into more serious symptoms.