You are not alone. Food cravings are intense desires for a specific food and often unrelated to hunger. Food cravings can be caused by a variety of physical or mental factors. They may be a sign of hormonal imbalances, a suboptimal diet, high stress levels, or a lack of sleep or physical activity. In order to break the cycle, get curious about why you are craving certain foods and tune in to what is going on with your body. There are a number of reasons why so recognising your triggers may be the solution you require if you are overeating.
Check in with the following:
Your sleep – Your appetite is largely affected by hormones responsible for regulating hunger and fullness which fluctuate throughout the day. Sleep deprivation can play havoc with these fluctuations, and may lead to poor appetite regulation and strong cravings. Lack of sleep has also been linked to the overeating of processed foods.
Practice good sleep hygiene. Have an evening routine in place that helps you wind down from the day’s events and sleep in a ventilated, cool, calm, dark room. A digital detox 1 -2 hours before bed helps too.
Your stress levels -stress can increase the levels of the hormone cortisol. When cortisol floods the body it raises blood sugar. Stress can make you gain weight especially in the belly area.
Find ways to minimise your stress. Become better organised. Slow down. Meditate and do some form of gentle yoga or exercising. Breathing techniques and talking about your worries are all ways you can manage your stress.
Your hydration – thirst is often confused with hunger or food cravings. Try drinking a large glass of water when you feel a craving for a certain food and wait a few minutes. Drinking water before meals has shown to reduce cravings and your appetite.
Your food – under eating, restricting or eliminating food groups can deprive you of nutrients affecting your energy levels and your mood. Lack of nutrients can also cause you to feel hungry or experience cravings even if you have eaten enough calories.
Follow a balanced whole food diet. Protein and fiber can help you feel full and reduce your appetite to keep you from overeating. Your body needs a consistent slow release supply of glucose to function optimally so include fruit, and whole grains and starchy vegetables.
Plan your meals ahead of time for the day or week ahead in order to eliminate uncertainty which may have you reaching for processed foods or causing cravings.
Your hormones – If you are pregnant or suffer with PMS (premenstrual syndrome), the hormonal changes in your body may intensify cravings, especially for carb-rich foods.
Be gentle with yourself. Eat well and stay hydrated.
Your gut – research is ongoing between gut microbes (your gut bacteria) and the link to the frequency and type of food craving you may have.
Support your gut with diverse whole foods. Eat the rainbow.
Top tip: don’t ever go to the supermarket hungry! Eat at regular intervals and keep healthy snacks close to hand if necessary.