12 Mistakes that Make Food Cravings Worse
Many factors contribute to a person’s unique experiences and relationships with food. Taking time to think about what food means to you is the first step in understanding your relationship with food. Here are some things you can change to reduce food cravings and the 12 common mistakes to avoid:
- Forgetting to build a foundation. Eating regularly at regular intervals allows your body to function at its best. Unbalanced low blood sugar leads to increased cortisol levels, which contribute to cravings for fatty, salty and sugary foods.
- Thinking that artificial sweeteners are the answer. Research has shown that sweetness decoupled from caloric content may only partially activate our food reward pathways, leaving us feeling unfilled. Feeling unfilled can lead to overeating and overall increased consumption of calories.
- Inviting trouble. Letting the food you crave into your home, office or car makes it that much harder to avoid giving in to when cravings strike. If you can’t avoid it, choose only to purchase it in small quantities.
- Feeling deprived. Cutting something out cold turkey can work for some but for others a more gradual approach works better. Think about the foods you crave and what it is about them that you crave. Then figure out how to bring in a healthier replacement that is satisfying.
- Food imagery. Spending lots of time on Pinterest or Instagram looking at food images? A recent study looked at the role food imagery plays in the strength of food cravings. It concluded that engaging the brain in other visual activities, like playing a video game rather than simply waiting out a food craving may help to decrease the strength of the food craving.
- Having a misunderstanding between you and your body? Maybe you are misunderstanding the cues your body is giving you for foods. For example, next time you feel like you need to eat, try drinking a large glass of cold water slowly. Add herbal teas and hydrating fruits and vegetables to your diet. You may not actually be hungry, just having a food craving.
- Special occasion as a motive. During the holidays and on special occasions, it is easy to give into our food cravings. We put certain foods on a pedestal and think its ok to take advantage of them being present. It’s fine to have an occasional special treat but know that it probably won’t be the last time that a piece of birthday cake or doughnut is available.
- Forgetting your back-up plan. When you are unprepared, you are more likely to give into cravings. Be sure to always keep healthy snacks in your fridge. Have favorite nuts on hand in your cupboard. Healthy choices help you defeat cravings.
- Not getting to know your food. Our first bite of food is only rivaled by our last bite. But after the third bite or so, we tend to settle into auto-pilot eating. We often finish a meal without actually experiencing it. Even a small portion, when each bite gets as much attention as the first, begins to feel like enough in less time and with less food. Slow down and get to know your food.
- Not asking why. Track your food cravings with a diet diary to help you find out the root cause of your cravings. List the time of day of the craving and the emotions you feel. Doing this for at least a week can help you notice patterns. Once you have a reasonable idea about the cause of your cravings, you can choose to do something about them.
- Keeping it to yourself. Accountability helps combat cravings. Knowing you have to be honest with someone may help you think twice about giving in. Pick someone you know will be honest with you and that will provide you with encouragement and support.
- Skimping on quality sleep. When we are tired we are less likely to make nourishing meals or eat healthy snacks. Lack of sleep weakens our resolve to abstain from old habits and we find it easy to give into cravings. Getting enough sleep will strengthen your resolve to make good choices.