7 Methods to Control Your Cravings
That Actually Work
Here's a simple dieting tip: not consuming calories in the first place is much easier than trying to shift them later.
The reality, of course, is that it's rarely that simple. The physical and mental causes behind food cravings are complex and go to the very evolutionary core of the human mind. So it's no wonder that many of us struggle to resist these urges.
However, that doesn't mean you're powerless. A few simple changes can go a long way. The trick is knowing how to avoid some of the most obvious food craving traps.
Here are seven methods to control your food cravings that actually work...
1. Think About Your Food
The science is in: multitasking is a big fat lie.
Yet this fact goes deeper than your work life. Research has shown that we can't even eat as effectively if we multitask while doing it.
Eating a meal while watching TV is an almost universal modern experience, but it could be costing us our health. The science shows that eating while focused on another task causes us to appreciate our food less, leaving us feeling hungry and unsatisfied.
The natural result? Food cravings appear shortly after eating, causing us to indulge further.
Simple changes to help you focus on your dinner could be the key to suppressing cravings. This is one case in which tradition seems to have it right, as eating at the table with your family provides a straightforward way to eat without distractions.
2. Take a Time Out
Food cravings sometimes rear their head during those critical minutes after you've finished eating. So you find yourself going back for another helping, or dessert, or a little snack to round out your meal.
The problem is that you might be full already—you just don't know it yet.
Traditional wisdom says it takes about twenty minutes to feel full after eating, and, as it turns out, the science largely agrees. It can take anywhere from a few minutes to nearly half an hour to know how full you truly are, so wait at least that long before going back for more.
Eating at a slower pace can also help you feel more full. When you eat slower, your early mouthfuls will start sending those satiety signals before your last mouthfuls reach your stomach. This means you're more likely to feel satisfied by the time you finish your meal, and you won't have to suffer your stomach asking for those extra few dozen calories.
3. Find a Hobby
Food cravings can often be traced back to two particular forms of eating: boredom eating and comfort eating.
We've all had that lazy Sunday afternoon where exploring the fridge seems to be the only activity available. Yet doing this often could be a sign that you're a boredom eater. Comfort eating, likewise, involves giving into cravings as a way of dealing with emotional distress.
Taking up a new hobby could provide a potential answer to both problems. Hobbies give the mind direction and keep the hands busy, which leaves less time for grazing like a cow on whatever food you can find. It also helps to control comfort eating, as hobbies can act as a mood stabilizer and emotional anchor, allowing you to cope with negativity via creative outlets.
The best kinds of hobbies are those you can do at home for a low cost. These have only minor barriers to entry, which means they're perfect for those slow afternoons in which the kitchen seems to be the most interesting place on Earth.
4. Improve Your Mood
As we mentioned, emotional factors can play a big role in food cravings, leading to comfort eating. When we're stressed out, our bodies tend to default to our most primitive behaviors, which often translates into finding comfort in food.
Naturally, improving your mood will help to control stress-induced eating. While reducing stress is easier said than done, there are ways to stabilize your overall mood and promote the release of feel-good hormones without having to pretend your worries don't exist. You don't have to feel perfect to regain some control.
Meditation is scientifically proven to help stabilize the mood and promote mindfulness, which is the sensation of being in the present moment. Likewise, going for a walk or improving your sleep hygiene are both small yet powerful ways to stabilize your mood and, in doing so, suppress the desire to comfort eat.
5. Drink More Water
Water may not sound like a satisfying alternative to a delicious snack, but it might be the key to controlling your cravings.
Our lives are now hurried enough that most people simply don't drink enough water throughout the day. That leads to many of us going through life in a state of early dehydration. Yet the brain's signals for these early stages of dehydration often cross over with those for hunger, causing us to eat as much due to confused signaling as anything else.
This means that a significant portion of people experience the signs of dehydration and turn to food as the solution. In reality, they might just need a drink. Staying hydrated could transform your relationship with food, leading to a reduction in food cravings and a more consistent sense of satiety.
6. Stock Substitutes
Sometimes you simply can't win. Despite doing all the right things, the animal part of your brain wins that struggle and declares that it needs the delicious thing right now.
In times like these, the trick lies in working with your brain, not against it. We only have a finite amount of energy for self-control. Making failure a part of the plan can help you cope with it.
By far the easiest way to do this is to stock your cupboards with substitutes for your most-craved foods. Simply replacing chocolate bars with fruit can deflect your cravings onto a healthier alternative—or force you to realize that you're not that hungry, anyway.
The best part of this trick is that it doesn't lead you onto the path of most resistance. Instead of fighting hard to deny yourself when you're at your weakest, you can make decisions at your strongest point (when shopping, in this case), which then pay off in those weaker moments.
7. Eat More Fiber
Fiber is an essential part of the human diet, but it can also play a key role in shutting down cravings. Dietary fiber consists of the fibrous material of plant-based foods as they relate to the human digestive system, with fiber being most famous for keeping us regular.
Fiber plays a number of other key roles, however, including in our perception of satiety. Fiber can increase our sense of fullness and improve our take-up of other nutritional elements, meaning our bodies can turn more of what we eat into its essential building blocks.
This all makes fiber a natural appetite suppressant, so increasing your fiber intake makes it easier to avoid cravings and lose weight in the long term. Fiber is also vital for your overall digestive health, which has been shown to play a role in our self-control and mood regulation. So improving your gut health via fiber could also help with those comfort eating problems we explored above. This list takes a more in depth look at how fiber can help suppress your appetite.
Methods to Control Cravings That Actually Work
Wrestling with food cravings can feel like a Sisyphean task, but the solutions we've outlined above offer some surprisingly simple ways to deal with them. With your cravings suppressed, losing weight and keeping fit will be that much easier.
Looking for more health tips? You can read more here.