FOUR WAYS TO CRUSH YOUR CRAVINGS
If you find yourself submitting to cravings for sugar or chocolate, here’s four ways to crush your cravings and out-manoeuvre your sugary demons.
Responsible for many a derailed diet, cravings have absolved many of us from any responsibility for rational thought when it comes to food choices.
WHY DO CRAVINGS HAPPEN?
While there is some evidence suggesting that cravings reflect an unfulfilled need in your diet, this is not the complete picture. Cravings can be due to sleep deprivation, excess stress, hormonal triggers, even on the back of repeated eating patterns.
Sugar and chocolate are cravings that top the ‘gotta have at all costs’ lists, and it seems like when you have an intense craving for these items there is nothing you can do.
Not so. Here are 4 reasons why cravings happen, along with solutions to help you combat them.
1. UNBALANCED SUGAR LEVELS
Sugar levels can become unbalanced when you consume processed carbohydrates (i.e. white bread). When consumed, these carbohydrates are converted to sugar which enters you bloodstream quickly, resulting in a quick release of the hormone insulin to attempt to re-balanced blood sugar levels.
The quick release of insulin is then followed by an equally fast release of another hormone, glucagon, which is how the body responds to quick insulin release in trying to achieve blood sugar balance. This insulin ‘spike’ followed by the glucagon ‘trough’ is how blood sugar levels become unbalanced, leading to weight gain, mood swings, and eventual destruction of society (maybe not that dramatic :-)).
Control blood sugar levels naturally by using herbs and spices
You can control sugar cravings by regulating blood sugar levels in the first place. Here are a few natural options to help balance sugar levels.
Cinnamon naturally helps regulate sugar levels, preventing sugar spikes after unbalanced meals.
How to use cinnamon: sprinkle it on porridge, add it to a smoothie, even add it to coffee or tea. It’s a simple complement to everyday items, adding flavour as well as blood-sugar balancing benefits.
This holiday-themed spice has been influential in dropping serum glucose levels (i.e. a measurement of the amount of simple sugar present in the blood) in a study of 30 Type-II diabetics.
How to use cloves: soak cloves in a small amount of water to soften them. Use the water and soften cloves in smoothies, stews or as an addition to vegetables.
This herbal medicine has been shown to reduce blood glucose levels in Type II Diabetic subjects both in fasting glucose as well as post-eating glucose levels.
How to use ginseng: simmer 5-6 slices of ginseng root to make ginseng tea. Also, add sliced ginseng root to chicken soup.
2. HORMONAL TRIGGERS
In addition to PMT (which frankly I’m not qualified to talk about), hormones can play a factor in cravings.
Hormone receptors play a role in associating pleasure with consumption of certain foods. Over time and repetition these receptors become desensitised as the pathways become more engrained. This leads to an increased amount of the craved food required to trigger the pleasurable response.
This leads eventually to overeating and obesity (and oddly enough the same parts of the brain associated with food cravings and reward pathways are also associated with addictive behaviours).
Use scented candles
Lighting a vanilla-scented candle helps stave off cravings for chocolate and sugar.
Referred to Christmas Dinner Syndrome by Reader’s Digest, the theory is that you become desensitised to the item when you have been surrounded by a similar fragrance.
By lighting a vanilla-scented candle, you are surrounding yourself with a scent similar to chocolate. As the scent becomes more familiar, the craving subsides.
3. LACK OF VARIETY IN DIET
According to a study in Psychology & Behaviour, monotony may be the culprit of craving a certain food.
The study fed healthy young men and women shakes to meet nutritional requirements for 5 days. The subjects who stayed on the shake-only diet exhibited significantly more cravings than those who didn’t.
Introduce dietary changes that help stave off cravings or replace unhealthy options
If we eat the same things time and again the possibility of a craving increases. By varying your diet (perhaps following some of the suggestions listed above) you will vary your intake, and therefore decrease the possibility of cravings through complacency.
4. ENVIRONMENTAL TRIGGERS
If something naughty is within arm’s reach, you can be pretty much guaranteed that it will be consumed.
When possible, change your environment
You can help yourself control sugar cravings by changing the environments where temptation exists.
In an office or other people’s homes, this may be difficult. However, your home is another matter. By altering your home environment so that sugary temptation is removed, you increase your opportunities to kick the habit.
Cravings can affect all of us, but by trying out these natural solutions you can take control of a strong urge that may be controlling you.
To learn more about healthy eating habits to achieve your fitness goals, contact James Staring, a leading personal trainer in Clapham, London.
ABOUT JAMES STARING
James Staring is a personal trainer based in Clapham, London. His methods have featured in publications such as Your Fitness, Hello, Healthy, Daily Mail, Closer, and many more. After giving up smoking and entering the fitness industry in 2009, James has focused on his passion to help others transform their health and fitness. However, James is convinced that most people struggle so much more than they need to in an effort to improve their fitness. Through his company, Fit to Last, which he runs with his partner, Ali Page – James has helped hundreds of men and women make small adjustments in their daily habits to transform their fitness and to love how they look and feel.James focuses on building the best version of you and inspiring you to new levels of health and fitness – regardless of your current ability or age. James is always keen to share the tools he uses to assist others in achieving their goals and has featured in publications such as Your Fitness, Healthy and Hello! magazines.
Fesler, K: The Craving Brain
Clark, C.J.: The How and Why of Eating Cloves
Singh, M: Mood, food and obesity, 1 September 2014