There are a variety of factors that contribute to food cravings and it’s a little more complex than you might think.
Food cravings arise from psychological, social and biological factors. As a large percentage of the working population is now working from home, it can be harder to keep those cravings at bay. Being at home and having food more accessible than you would in the office makes it easy for cravings and overeating to get out of hand.
Managing these behaviours can be crucial to maintaining a healthy body and also a healthy mind. Below are a few considerations to be mindful of when it comes to tackling unwanted cravings.
Are you sleeping enough?
Studies show that even a single night of sleep deprivation can affect your hunger and appetite hormones, leading to increased hunger the next day. There are two hormones that regulate hunger and appetite. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin decreases it. When the body is sleep-deprived, the level of ghrelin spikes, while the level of leptin falls – sending signals to your brain telling it you’re hungry. Moral of the story: get your 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
Are you eating enough food throughout the day?
If you often find yourself getting hungry between mealtimes, try eating balanced meals more regularly throughout the day. This will help manage your blood sugars. When our blood sugars drop, meaning the carbohydrates that float around in our blood are ready to be used as energy, we tend to crave highly palatable foods that contain high amounts of sugar or fat, often combined with salt and flavourings.
If you aren't snacking, it might be a good time to start
We’ve covered why eating more regularly helps manage your blood sugars, however, that’s not all snacking is good for. Snacking in between meals is also a way to get a wider range of foods into your everyday diet. Rather than three big meals and being limited to those foods, try spreading out your food into smaller, more frequent meals. That muesli bar you wanted isn’t big enough to have as a main meal, so make it a healthy snack in between. This allows more food and more variety, leading to fewer cravings.
What does your breakfast look like?
You’ve likely heard the phrase “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Well, that’s not entirely true. While some people need breakfast to set them up for the day, others feel better when they skip it. However, fasting or skipping breakfast can cause a huge drop in blood sugars, which can cause cravings and lead to overeating. To set myself up for a healthy day of eating and reduce cravings, I like to eat a substantial breakfast that contains a good source of fats, protein and carbs. Right now, I’m loving oatmeal with blueberries and Amazonia's Raw Protein Isolate.
What does your post-workout meal look like?
A large percentage of people are unaware that their recovery meal is what’s setting them back. Your body is put through physical stress while exercising, so it’s important that we refuel with a meal that’s going to support its recovery. Between ⅓ – ½ of your plate should be filled with complex carbohydrates to refuel muscle glycogen stores. A quarter should contain a source of lean protein and a small amount of healthy monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. The rest of your plate should be filled with colour – whether that be fruits, vegetables or both! Don’t go skipping carbohydrates in this meal because you have body composition goals. Carbs are crucial here!
Monitor your water intake – you may no be getting nearly as much as you need
Did you know that your body’s signs of hunger and thirst are pretty much the same? Thirst occurs when your body needs water. When you don’t drink enough water, your body receives mixed signals on hunger, so your body tells you to eat when what you really need is liquid intake.
Give in to the cravings (sometimes)
Sometimes, giving in to cravings is just as important as trying to manage them. Eating the foods you love is crucial. The less you restrict yourself from the foods you enjoy, the more you’ll want them. Every now and again, it’s perfectly OK to eat the chocolate you’ve been craving, dish up a bowl of ice cream you’ve been wanting to try, or buy the doughnut that’s been calling your name at the bakery every time you go to buy bread.