How to combat cravings

How to combat cravings

We eat food for a number of reasons but surprisingly hunger is usually well down the list. People need food to survive. It provides the fuel for our bodies so that we can undertake physical activity and stay healthy. However, food can provide much more than fuel or energy for the body. It can also provide us with emotional comfort or a way of interacting with others.

Hunger is our basic ‘need’ for food whereas appetite is our ‘want’ for food. The feeling of hunger comes about through the body sending messages to the brain which in turn stimulate appetite. This results in us initiating the process of eating. The opposite of hunger and appetite are “satiation” and “satiety”. Satiation is the feeling of fullness during a meal which brings eating to an end. Satiety on the other hand, is the feeling of fullness we experience in-between meals, which influences when you eat your next meal. 

Appetite is controlled by the balance between hunger and satiety and also many external environmental factors such as our moods, physical surroundings or the need for social interaction. Because of this, the ‘hunger’ message can often become confused and the sweet tooth craving takes over. How many times have we been out for coffee with friends and ordered a cake or muffin even though we weren’t physically hungry? I know I have!

With a bit of thought we can all begin to win the battle over those 3pm cravings. It’s time to start listening to our bodies and realising why it is that we are craving that piece of chocolate or other sweet treat.

Simple tips for winning the battle

Here a few practical ideas to help you combat those cravings:

    • Listen to your body. Are you physically hungry or are you craving something sweet because you are stressed or in need of comfort?

    • Look at other ways of fulfilling that need such as, taking some time out.

  • Try having a glass of water first. Sometimes we can confuse the feeling of thirst with hunger. The time taken out to fill your glass, can also be a good distraction.

  • Choose nutrient dense foods, rather than a candy bar. These not only provide energy but are also packed with other nutrients which our bodies need. Examples of nutrient dense foods to help satisfy a sweet tooth include: low fat flavoured milk, yoghurt, fresh, frozen or dried fruit or even some muesli bars (less than 600kJ per serve).

  • Choose sweet foods which help us to feel full. Foods with a low GI (Glycaemic Index) or high protein content have a high satiety. This helps you feel fuller for longer. Have some of these foods within easy reach. Maybe keep a bag of dried fruit in your desk drawer or a nut bar in your handbag.

  • Ensure that you eat regularly during the day – and that includes starting the day with breakfast. By eating regularly you are less likely to cave into your emotional and environmental appetite cues (such as stress or comfort) due to feelings of satiety.

  • Try reaching for a piece of chewing gum, instead of a piece of chocolate.

  •  If you really must have some lollies, try the sugar-free hard boiled kind. These last longer if you suck on them, by which time the sweet tooth craving may have passed.

  • If your cravings can not be tamed, allow yourself a small bit first. There is no point telling yourself you’re not allowed chocolate as chances are you will end up pigging out on a few other foods before finally caving in and eating some chocolate as well! Try treast which are portion controlled so that you don’t eandup eating a large amount eg a mini size chocolate bar.

  • Don’t beat yourself up if you give in to your cravings as this may lead to a viscous cycle where you then end up craving even more, due to feelings of depression.