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Curb your cravings: how to resist those snack temptations
It’s late afternoon, you’ve had a long morning at the office, at home with the children, running errands without a break – and now that sugar craving is calling your name. Sound familiar?
We’ve all been here and, generally speaking, most of us feel helpless when the desire for snacks, attacks. But that’s okay. There’s actually nothing wrong with craving that chocolate, enjoying a couple of squares – or even the whole bar – and moving on with your day.
Cravings are a normal part of life and as long as yours are satisfied after you enjoy that chocolate, packet of chips, or whatever you fancy, then you know it was just a simple craving.
But here’s the crunch…
If you tuck into that packet of marshmallows you’ve been eyeing off all morning, and still don’t feel satisfied… if all you want to do is eat snacks all day, every day, then it may be time to take a closer look at the real reason behind your cravings.
“Cravings are a normal part of life and perfectly fine under certain circumstances.”
Hunger versus cravings. What’s the difference?
Hunger is essentially our body’s way of letting us know it needs food. It’s a physiological desire for more fuel.
- You feel the physical hunger pains that grow if you don’t eat
- Once you eat something, your hunger will disappear
- If you ignore it, you may feel brain fog, lightheaded and irritable.
You will also tend to overeat later to compensate for your hunger.
Craving food is our brain’s way of letting us know that it has an urge to eat, even if it’s not hungry. It’s a psychological desire for positive stimulation or a ‘hit’ of that feelgood hormone, dopamine.
- It may disappear over time, usually within 20 minutes
- Only a specific food will satisfy a craving
- There’s no real physical harm if you don’t satisfy your craving – just frustration!
Did you know?
Your craving may simply be a result of your need to feel good and not necessarily to eat anything. So, if you distract yourself with something else that will give you a positive feeling, like ticking things off your to-do list, or listening to your favourite music, you may find your craving will disappear as quickly as it appeared.
However, cravings and hunger are still linked. In fact, a really common sign of actually being hungry is having cravings! This may be because your blood sugar is low which is why you’re craving sugar. Or you may just be feeling tired, annoyed and looking for that dopamine hit from your favourite food.
“Cravings can also be a sign that your body has an unmet need that needs to be fulfilled.”
Listen to your body – and its cravings
Your body has its own intelligence – and it’s always talking to you. In fact, cravings are a great way for your body to let you know it needs sleep, water and more balanced meals.
Knowing what’s behind your cravings is the secret to controlling them, so they don’t control you.
This may mean you’re tired or have low blood sugar levels.
You may be dehydrated.
Need a crunchy snack?
Believe it or not you may just be bored.
Common causes of cravings
These can be divided into physical and psychological causes.
- Sugar crash
How to reduce your cravings
- Eat enough food
- Get 7-9 hours sleep a night
- Schedule in fun food
- Manage stress
- Eat regular balanced meals
- Stay hydrated.
“Stress, exhaustion, dehydration and even a lack of sleep can cause you to crave foods that never satisfy even after you’ve eaten them!”
Two ways to tackle those 3pm sugar cravings
For a lot of us, this time of the day is our soft spot when it comes to needing a sugary snack. But if you’re finding the sugar still doesn’t satisfy you, here’s what you can do to resolve the urge to splurge on sweets for a healthier, happier day.
1. Eat every 3-5 hours
Most people don’t plan to have a small meal or healthy snack between lunch and dinner. So, snacking fills the gap – literally and physically.
Let’s crunch some numbers…
If you have lunch at 12 and don’t plan to have your next meal until dinner time – that’s seven hours without a healthy snack between. Most of us will only last 3-5 hours depending on our previous meal. And this is because your hunger hormone, ghrelin, increases between meals which makes you think of food, feel hungry and get cravings. Self-control naturally goes out the window!
A quick solution? Schedule a healthy afternoon snack at the time you normally get your cravings.
2. Eat balanced meals
When you eat healthy, balanced meals during the day, your blood sugar levels are more likely to stay at a healthy level all day. Try having a meal packed with low GI carbs like:
- brown bread
And don’t forget to balance your meal with a protein choice and some healthy fats like avocado.
Remember, even if you eat every four hours, if your meals contain highly refined sugar and carbs, you’re likely to experience a blood sugar spike and crash which causes cravings.
“Satisfy those snack urges in the afternoon with a healthy platter of carrots, seeds, hummus and even some good chocolate.”
Giving in to snacks can be good for you – in moderation
Denying yourself your favourite afternoon snack may not make your cravings go away – particularly if you’re genuinely hungry. In fact, it may just lead you to eat more sugary, salty snacks than you should. The key is to really listen to your body and what it needs.
So, go ahead and honour your cravings. Enjoy that cupcake with the extra icing. Dig into those French fries. Denial is not the name of the health game – balance and moderation is.
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.
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