Science-based Guide to Stopping Cravings – Problems and How to Fix Them

Cravings are normal; everyone has them and are not always harmful. If you want a pickle fried with cheese, eat it and enjoy. However, sometimes cravings are due to mental or physical issues that need to be addressed. Stopping cravings can be difficult in such cases.

Food cravings are not always bad – source

Learn the issues that may cause cravings and how to fix them with this science-based guide! Find out what cravings are and what to do when they are harmful.

What are Cravings

Cravings are when you have a strong desire to eat a specific food. They vary from person to person and sometimes have an underlying issue causing them. Often, the food we crave is something very salty or very sugary. It might spark hunger intensely, depending on when your last meal was, and you might want to eat it immediately.

Cravings aren’t commonly fueled by hunger though. They can be due to mental or physical factors that would be addressed. Sometimes, cravings, particularly sweet ones, are due to the link between sugar and dopamine in the brain. When we eat sugar, our brains are flooded with feel-good chemicals that make us happy. We easily become less sensitive to sweet tastes though. The more sugar we eat, the more sugar it takes to get that same sweetness.

3 Things Keeping You From Stopping Cravings

Here are things that prevent you from stopping cravings. Cravings are normal but may become detrimental if they cause overeating or compulsive eating. Furthermore, our cravings are usually things like ice cream, pizza, and candy. We don’t tend to crave lettuce. This science-based guide can help you troubleshoot issues and fix them today.

1. Undereating or Not Eating at Regular Hours

Our body runs on an internal clock that determines sleep, alertness, and even hunger. If we have a meal every day at noon, our bodies will become used to this and prepare for a noon meal by releasing insulin 15 minutes or so before we eat. Insulin is used by the body to regulate blood sugar, so in theory this is good. However, when we eat at irregular times, our bodies become misaligned. We may feel more hungry, and tired, and crave food strongly. 

This issue may also occur if we are not fueling the body properly. We may start working out more, but eating a lot less. This misalignment sends weird signals to the body. Our bodies may send stronger, harsher hunger cues that lead to cravings.

Solution: Eat Enough, Regularly

One way to avoid any of the above issues is to eat well, and regularly. Incorporate more protein into your day, which would be about a palm-sized amount with every meal. Protein fills you up and makes you full for longer. Sometimes, we confuse thirst signals for hunger. Drink a small glass of water and wait 15 minutes. If the craving/hunger has passed, awesome. If you are still hungry, eat it.

2. Over Restricting 

When we try to eat healthily, our first instinct is to throw out all junk food, get rid of all sweets, and over-restrict ourselves. This causes problems. When we get rid of all ice cream, for example, we might stick to it at the beginning. However, it gets harder, and eventually, you’ll go out for dinner or to a party and encounter ice cream. In this case, the common occurrence is a binge session of overeating ice cream. We get instant rewards with a flood of dopamine even stronger than before. 

Solution: Don’t Restrict 

We overeat the food we love when we restrict it. This is because we don’t know when the next time we will get it will be. Instead, we should eat what we want, but with these rules. First off, we need to learn portion control. We can eat a serving of ice cream, but not the whole container. In my case, it helps me to serve the portion and not eat straight from the tub.

Plus, another way to tame cravings is to wait. If you still crave the food item after an hour eat it. In many cases though, our cravings tend to pass, which leads me to the last issue.

3. Using Food as Stress Relief

Sometimes, we eat to feel something. There may be cases where a bad day can be fixed with a nice piece of chocolate. Psychologically, this can work to make us feel better. However, stopping cravings becomes harder when we relate food to feeling good and stress relief. Again, there is nothing wrong with wanting a treat to make you feel better, but the danger lies in expecting food to change the way we feel. This leads to eating emotionally. Maybe a stressful day at work leads to eating half a pizza, maybe the ice cream you bought for the week is finished in one night. This can be an issue.

Solution: Mindful Meals

One way to help resolve this issue is to be more observant in your meals and snacking habits. Sometimes, it pays to pause and check in with yourself. Ask yourself, “Am I hungry or just stressed? Am I rewarding myself or punishing myself?”

What we can start doing is mindfully eating and writing down our habits. If we notice we tend to crave when we are sad, we can take more proactive steps to fix the issue. Note the intention behind when, what, and why you eat. A snack can be fuel for a workout, can be due to taste, can be a celebration, etc.

The Takeaway

Cravings are normal but can be bad for you if they cause you to overeat processed food or stress eat. Stopping cravings is easier than you think with these tips.

Remember that health comes from within. Eat well, move your body daily, and care for your mental health. Daily habits are the building blocks for emotional, mental, and physical health. As shown above, take care of your gut health! Learn everything you need to know about gut microbiota today for free here.

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