“How can I stop my cravings?”

If this sounds like you, then keep reading! And you’re certainly not alone: we get questions related to ‘cravings’ multiple times a day. Well, fear not – today, we’re going to talk about the common reasons behind feeling ‘munchy’, as well as explore some of the BBR team’s favourite strategies to keep those cravings under wraps.

Why do we get food cravings?

Food cravings can be defined as ‘an intense desire to consume a specific food’ – and most individuals have experienced this at some point. However, the frequency of cravings and the actual foods we desire vary considerably between individuals – and so do reasons behind feeling that way!

Some of the common culprits include:

  • Emotional state – and contrary to popular belief, both stress and happiness can provoke cravings;
  • Habits – for instance, if since childhood you’ve been having a glass of chocolate milk upon returning home in the arvo, removing it from your day suddenly won’t go unnoticed;
  • Nutritional adequacy of what’s on your plate – the more wholesome and diverse your intake is, the less likely you are to experience cravings, according to research;
  • Stage of menstrual cycle – for instance, hormonal changes during the luteal phase of the cycle are associated with cravings for sweet-tasting and fat-rich foods;
  • And even what we’re bombarded with via internet and mass-media – by seeing fast food ads a dozen times a day, you are likely to start thinking about it more, potentially resulting in cravings!

In addition, we also know what cravings are probably not – research shows that the “compensation” theory, where your body is trying to signal certain deficiencies through cravings, is mostly a myth. Personally, I’ve never met a person badly craving a garden salad, despite the fact that very few people are meeting recommended veggie intake guidelines. Instead, most people crave foods with high content of added sugars and unhealthy fats. In this case, all your body is trying to tell you is that you really want a cookie.

Unfortunately, whilst knowing the reasons behind food cravings is helpful to some extent, on its own it doesn’t always provide enough motivation to put that tub of ice cream back in the freezer after you’ve already had a bedtime snack!

If you’re struggling, try some of our favourite…

Strategies for harnessing food cravings

#1 Nourish your body responsibly

As mentioned above, people whose intake lacks a variety of wholesome, nutritious foods are much more likely to be haunted by food cravings compared to those who enjoy a diet based on the core food groups. This is because when eating lots of fast food and highly processed products, as well as not munching on enough fruit and veggies, it’s easy to become undernourished, especially when it comes to micronutrients. As a result, your body may decide you’re ‘starving’ – even when getting plenty, if not excess, of calories! Your brain is wired to then start searching for energy-dense foods to ‘cure starvation’…and before you notice, a packet of choc chip cookies is empty.

SOLUTION: Make sure your nutrition is based on whole foods, and limit highly processed products to occasional treats – sometimes, this alone is enough to make cravings disappear.

#2 Focus on sleep

Recent research has confirmed something you may have experienced without realising: sleep deprivation can make us crave highly palatable foods (again – think sugary fatty goodness), making  you eat all the cookies and cake it can find! This comes down to two main factors: first, sleep deprivation blunts the decision-making activity in the brain. And second, brain regions that respond to rewards get overstimulated, which makes treats much more attractive…you do the math!

SOLUTION: Plain and simple, ensure you’re sleeping 7-9 hours a night – you simply can’t afford to neglect that snooze!

#3 Stress less

We hear you – stress is the new black and avoiding ‘bad’ stress completely is not a realistic goal for most! However, do keep in mind that for some people, experiencing elevated levels of stress can lead to consuming more calories, mostly through comfort foods – and women appear especially prone to this.

SOLUTION: If you find yourself munching excessively under pressure, try finding something to remove some stress from your life. From daily meditation to a warm bath, find something that relaxes your body and mind but doesn’t involve eating!

#4 Be mindful of your hormones

As women, our hormones – especially cycle-related changes – can wreak havoc on how we feel, including unsolicited food cravings. If you know this happens to you around your period, planning and awareness are your best friends! In addition, if you suffer from severe PMS symptoms or other conditions that may influence your cycle, it’s always a good idea to book an appointment with your doctor and discuss potential treatment options.

SOLUTION: Once you get period cravings, very few things can stop you from attacking that pantry – so make sure there are no temptations there to start with! Surround yourself with nutritious foods, and if you must, indulge in a small serving of whatever you’re craving – not a family-sized packet.

#5 Keep your gut health in check

Did you know that your gastrointestinal microbiota can influence your eating behaviours? The concept is both simple and mind-blowing: there are many different colonies of bacteria in your gut, and different types of bacteria thrive on different food sources. The more you feed a certain type, the bigger the population – and the more prominent its signalling is! So, for instance, if you’ve been eating lots of sugary foods for prolonged periods, you’ve likely grown quite a population of sugar-loving bacteria in your gut, and they’re sending signals for your brain for even more sugar. Hence, the almighty cravings!

SOLUTION: Eating a wholesome varied diet promotes more diverse gut microbiota and prevents sugar-hungry types from dominating your body and mind. It may sound too obvious and simplistic but works wonders nevertheless!

#6 It’s largely in your head

In addition to all the physiological reasons, your mindset plays an equally large role in how bad your cravings can get. “I need something sweet after dinner”, or “I always crave something after my lunch” - how many of you have heard yourselves saying that? Well guess what the good news is? You don’t need anything. We have simply conditioned ourselves in to these habits, and all we have to do is break this cycle. We get it – being bombarded with images of fries and donuts doesn’t make transitioning to a healthier nutrition pattern easier, but by staying in tune with your body and mind, you can totally do it!

SOLUTION: Begin practicing mindfulness and self-awareness to feel the difference between a genuine craving/hunger (e.g. you feel low in energy and are keen to restore it with nutritious foods) and an emotional, boredom or hormonal craving (normally for processed foods like cake, chocolate, ice-cream – and nothing else will do). Try replacing food-related habits with something different, such as a short meditation session or a quick walk around the block – distracting yourself really pays off. Also, check if you’re currently in a deprivation mindset – and work on snapping out of it!

Rachel’s bonus tips

There are numerous strategies for curbing cravings – here are a few tips that work wonders for Rachel to give you a starting point!

  • Cream of tartar, also known as Potassium Bitartrate, is sour in flavour and high in potassium, creating a satisfying combination that many people swear by for curbing cravings! It may sound strange but try it and see if it works for you by mixing a teaspoon with some water and drinking it up! Don’t overdo it though, as it has laxative properties.
  • Ensuring you’re getting enough Omega-3 fatty acids is something that may help curb cravings – so stock on some salmon fillets or purchase a supplement and see if it makes a difference.
  • Use the power of sour, as it’s very stimulating for taste buds, and may negate the need for sweet foods! Try sipping on lemon water or have a serving of apple cider vinegar – as a bonus, it may aid metabolism and digestion. Just be careful if you have any stomach issues, such as ulcers.

Cravings can be strong – and sometimes, it’s OK to just have what you want! However, if you find that reaching for certain foods hinders your progress and occupies your mind, try the tips above – and kill the cravings for good.

Hope you found this helpful – and if you have any questions, you know where to find us!