We probably all have experienced the desire to give in to food cravings. Cravings can occur at any point and more than often when we least expect them. They’re difficult to ignore and typically occur when we desire certain foods. Rest assured, up to 90% of the world’s population has experienced food cravings at some point.
Webster’s Dictionary defines a craving as “an intense, urgent, or abnormal desire or longing.” Food cravings can be brought on by several lifestyle factors - whether it be physical or mental. They can be one of the biggest reasons why people don’t reach their health and fitness goals.
We’ve put together some reasons for your cravings and our top tips to help curb the cravings to help you stay on track in 2022.
Eat enough calories and protein
If you’re not eating enough, your body isn’t properly satisfied and you may not consume the vital nutrients your body needs. Your body enters survival mode and starts breaking down muscle to release the glucose stored inside, which can be used for energy (1). When this occurs, you can experience symptoms such as fatigue, brain fatigue, and potentially more serious long-term effects (2).
You also need to ensure you are eating enough protein to help nourish your body and also keep you feeling full for longer. A diet full of lean protein sources is an important part of a healthy diet and an energy source.
It’s also important to avoid overly restrictive diets - those chicken and broccoli protocols are not sustainable. Instead, focus on a balance between the three important macronutrients - proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. A healthy balance will leave you more satisfied, nourished, and likely less to no cravings.
Drink lots of water
Sometimes, thirst can be often confused by your brain with hunger. If you do feel a sudden urge for a specific food, consume a big glass of water, take a walk and wait a few minutes. You may find the cravings go away because your body is thirsty, otherwise, if you’re still hungry it might be time for a snack.
Our bodies are roughly made up of 60% water, so there are also a number of health benefits when you consume enough water daily. As studies report, this can include protecting organs and tissues, normalizing blood pressure, aiding digestion, and carrying nutrients and oxygen to your cells. (3).
As a general rule of thumb, men should be having a minimum of 4 litres per day, and women 2.5 litres. If you find you still aren’t getting enough water, try setting alarms every hour throughout the day to remind yourself to have at least a cup.
Plan your meals
Weekly food prep allows you to plan ahead of time and keep you on track. It also helps you implement and stick with healthy eating habits when leading a busy schedule.
When you home cook your meals, you are also in control of your macros, portions, and you know there are no hidden extra calories. Not to mention the money you save by not buying a takeaway lunch.
Where a lot of people come unstuck is the 3 pm munchies. This generally occurs when we’re nearing the end of the workday and lacking motivation, or simply still hungry after lunch. No matter the reason, it can be easy to fall victim to this trap.
Meal planning is an underutilized tool that makes your life more organised and you’ll create better habits. Even if you’re working from home, meal prepping will help you stick to your habits in the long term.
If you’re regularly stressed, this may bring on food cravings and influence unhealthy eating patterns. Every time you’re feeling stressed, your body releases cortisol. As Your Hormones report, Cortisol is a steroid hormone that regulates a wide range of processes throughout the body, including metabolism and the immune response.
When you have too much cortisol over a long period, you can experience muscle weakness, mood swings, rapid weight gain, and for women irregular cycles. There have also been studies to show a correlation between cortisol and psychiatric conditions, such as anxiety and depression (4).
It’s important to manage your stress, because your brain thinks it needs fuel to fight your stress. Practising mindfulness and creating healthy habits can help you combat stress.
The bottom line
If you experience cravings, know they are normal. However, you need to be prepared and know how to overcome the cravings to avoid binge eating or unhealthy food habits. Focus on mindful eating and being aware of your habits, emotions, hunger, and cravings.
Following the tips on the list such as following a meal plan, planning your meals, drinking enough water, and practising mindful eating will help you avoid common cravings.
Keep track of your daily habits and cravings in a diary to track when you are experiencing cravings. This will help you to determine if there are any triggers or lifestyle factors contributing to specific cravings.