For many, more time spent at home means more time spent on the couch, binge-watching Netflix or catching up on your favorite reality show (don’t worry, no judgment here). All of a sudden, you start thinking about how much you want some ice cream. Or chips. Or animal crackers. Or chocolate chips straight out of the bag.
You toy with the thought a little bit, going back and forth between “I really shouldn’t” and “Ah what the heck – we’re stuck at home anyway. I’ll get back on track tomorrow”. Some days you might give in and others you might stay strong, but regardless of the outcome, the fact is still the same: you’re having a craving.
Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. Cravings are common and can be intense, especially when you’re restricting yourself on a weight loss plan. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to fight cravings and take back control.
Craving Versus True Hunger
To understand whether you’re truly hungry or just having a craving, it’s important to understand the difference between the two. Real hunger is caused by the body’s physical need for food. It’s often accompanied by a growling stomach or a hollow feeling. When you’re really hungry, you’d be willing to eat a plate of grilled chicken and veggies.
On the other hand, cravings have a physiological or emotional component. You may want chocolate when you feel sad or a bag of chips because you’re bored. When you’re having a craving, it’s usually for a specific (and often unhealthy) food. Cravings often lead to binge eating because you’re not actually trying to satisfy hunger. If you’re truly hungry, you should eat. If you’re having a craving, there are some things you can do to beat it.
While this technically doesn’t help you beat a craving once you have it, one of the best defensive moves you can make is to keep any unhealthy foods that you often crave out of the house. If being home all day or sitting in front of the television at night makes you want to eat a bag of chips, don’t keep chips around.
You’re more likely to give in to the craving if you only have to walk to your pantry than if you have to get in your car and drive to the store to pick something up, especially right now.
Cravings tend to hit hard when you’re not busy. And since a lot of us have a lot more free time lately, cravings have reached an all-time high.
That doesn’t mean that you have to be moving all the time and should never relax, but if a craving does hit, do something to take your mind off of it. Go for a 15 minute walk or call a friend. Draw a picture or lose yourself in a book. Sometimes all it takes for the craving to go away is turning your attention elsewhere.
Reduce Your Stress
Unfortunately, stress is an unavoidable part of life all the time and now, stress may be more invasive than ever. Aside from other negative health effects of stress, it’s also a big factor in cravings.
Some people lose their appetite when they’re stressed; others experience intense cravings for comfort foods, like ice cream and pie. If you fall into the latter category, it’s a good idea to learn some stress reduction techniques that can help you manage your stress levels and the resulting cravings.
Take a hot bath, stretch for 10 minutes, do some yoga, or write in a journal. Don’t just do this when you feel a craving though. Make stress reduction a part of your everyday life.
Go for Water
Sometimes thirst shows up disguised as cravings. If you feel a craving coming on, drink a big glass of water. It may just be that you’re a little dehydrated. If that doesn’t work, drink another glass. If that doesn’t work, move on to another technique.
Eat Healthy Foods Regularly
Cravings tend to hit full force if you allow too much time to pass between meals and let yourself get too hungry. You’re more likely to give in to your cravings if you feel famished.
Cravings also strike when you’re eating a lot of processed foods, which have become a staple for many during these times.
If you’re prone to cravings, eat a well-balanced meal or snack every few hours and never let yourself get to the point where you’re feeling ravenous.