There’s more to losing weight than planning a diet and necessary lifestyle changes, and then hunkering down with discipline and willpower to enact your grand scheme. It is also about following through while avoiding traps and obstacles along the way that can trip you up and send you back to square one. One of those trip-ups is a craving, such as reaching for that pint of your favorite multi-flavored ice cream or just good old-fashioned pigging out on beer and burgers smothered in condiments.
What Are Cravings?
Per healthline.com, cravings are defined as intense and even uncontrollable desires – more potent than normal hunger pangs – for specific foods, or to put it more bluntly, junk food, such as that readily available at the local drive-thru. There are a wide variety of foods that fall into the category as delectable delights to be craved, but one thing many of them have in common is that they are highly processed and loaded with sugar. A sweet tooth can be a dieter’s worst enemy.
Here’s what happens with cravings, per medicalnewstoday.com: foods that have an abundance of sugar and/or carbohydrates tend to release feel-good chemicals when ingested – chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and other relaxation-inducing endorphins in the brain. Those chemical effects can produce cravings, enticing the person experiencing them to seek them out, almost like a mild form of addiction. Like they used to say on the old chip commercial on TV, “Bet you can’t eat just one.” That’s when the weight comes back and the waistline starts expanding.
10 Ways to Ward Off Cravings
Getting rid of a sugar addiction, or at least tamping it down long-term, can be difficult, even next to impossible. However, there are steps and even various nutrients and supplements you can take to help you squelch those cravings. You might want to discuss this with your physician or a nutritionist for specific guidance on a battle plan best suited for you and your physiology. Here, in no particular order, are some tips and recommendations to get you started on ending cravings:
- Protein. That is, add more protein to your diet. It can not only curb your appetite in general, it can also reduce cravings while making you feel fuller and satiating your appetite for longer, per healthline.com.
- Reduce Your Stress. We know, easier said than done. Stress has a big part in producing cravings, especially chronic stress that can leave some people longing for sugary foods and/or those dense in calories, per medicalnewstoday.com. Getting sufficient sleep factors in to reducing stress, as do techniques such as coached meditation and breathing exercises.
- Magnesium. Per genesismedical.com.za, magnesium takes the fight to sugar cravings on multiple levels. Conveniently found in supplement form, magnesium can regulate glucose and insulin levels, while keeping the neurotransmitter dopamine in check. Zinc can help in a very similar manner. A magnesium deficiency often leads to sugar-based cravings, with chocolate becoming No. 1 on the craved target list.
- Resveratrol, which can be found in red wine as well as in supplementation form, bolsters your body’s capacity to absorb glucose in muscle tissues. This helps to store energy, in the process decreasing the craving for sugar, per genesismedical.com.za.
- Drink water. You’ve read it here before – water is one of life’s true elixirs, and that includes helping to fend off cravings. You should be sipping water throughout the day, anyway. Your body can sometimes be fooled into thinking thirst is hunger, which is why drinking water can put a lid on food cravings.
- L-glutamine. Also available through nutritional supplements, L-glutamine is an amino acid that through studies has been found, per foxnews.com, to thwart cravings by working to regular blood sugar levels in your body.
- Spices as natural sweeteners. Think cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom among the natural sweeteners that can be sprinkled on assorted foods to add flavor and a taste of something sweet without messing with your blood sugar levels or packing on calories.
- Avoid or at least minimize artificial sweeteners. Like the kind you put into your coffee. Per foxnews.com, these have not been proven to eliminate sugar cravings and can even boost your desire for sugar.
- Fish oil. It’s helpful for keeping your appetite in check while also diminishing your cravings for carbohydrates and promoting insulin sensitivity, per genesismedical.com.za.
- Exercise. A 2015 study, per medicalnewstoday.com, found that brief exercise sessions, such as a brisk 15-minute walk, were more productive at decreasing cravings than sitting doing nothing.