Why do cravings happen? Why do you suddenly but absolutely have to have something salty, something sweet, or a nice cold glass of wine or beer as if there was no tomorrow? Cravings can result from various sources including stress, routine or habits, even a familiar place or smell from a memory. Think of when you go to a carnival… do you immediately crave a big hotdog or a funnel cake? You’re not alone! That’s a very normal craving stemming from a memory or fond pastime. The memory that the smell of a carnival brings on a craving for a funnel cake and BOOM- it’s like you MUST have it now! Similarly, we all have been in a situation where stress or a habit has caused us a craving. When you combine these factors, such as stress and a habit, cravings can be toxic to one’s progress for better health and weight loss.
Let’s look more into what causes food cravings. Cravings are the results of habits. But how? Why?
Habits are routines that we develop over time; some, like brushing your teeth daily, are good habits we pick up as children when our families teach us them. Another, like wearing a wedding ring, feel odd at first but, sooner than later, you might feel like you have a bare hand if you forgot your sparkle on the dresser one day. Overeating and food cravings can also become habits. Birthday parties mean cakes and sweets, which is a collective habit our culture has. Habits mean comfort and routine, which are also two common sources of cravings. Habits mean memories and bonding experiences with family and friends, which are also sources of cravings. Unfortunately, habits are not always good for our wellness goals, whether physical or emotional, just like cravings. The connection between habits and cravings, and the problems it can cause… well, that’s something every person is familiar with!
Food and emotional journaling can help decipher the cause of your cravings and help you plan to overcome them. Simply add an emotional component to your food journal – what was happening and how did you feel when you ate something? What mood were you feeling? Was there an event that preceded it?
So what do you do when an emergency strikes and your food journal isn’t cutting it? What happens when your dutifully made salad jar is not helping that “need” for an afternoon cookie with your coworkers? What about when it is 10 minutes later and you still want that cupcake, despite trying to wait the craving out?
Here are some top tips for getting over a craving:
Take some deep breaths.
Sit in a quiet place for 5-10 minutes and reflect on your day with deep breaths. Deep breathing lowers stress hormones like cortisol that cause cravings. You might even find a daily 5-10 minute breathing/ meditation practice does wonders for stopping the cravings before they occur!
Take a break.
If you are stuck in the office with no place for peace, take a bathroom and water break. Be mindful and take your time, maybe take an extra lap around the office to say hi to your work buddy.
Hit the gym or go for a walk.
Walking away from temptation works, especially when you might actually be seeking some stress relief and not an actual food. Keep a packed gym bag with you as incentive, or at least a pair of socks and track shoes. Go hoof it for 15 minutes and see if the craving passes. At the very minimum, get moving is a win-win- you might beat the craving and get in some extra calorie torching! Hint: try some of the great quick HIIT routines here at FitBodyHQ to get the stress out!
Find a Yoga or other stress relieving class.
Though this is hard to do immediately, this is a good technique for a hard, long work day and avoiding simply going home to be around temptation. Or maybe it’s that pizza place on your way home that is the temptation. Place something in the middle of you and the craving- a yoga or stress relief class like Tai Chi, meditation, or beginner martial arts class should help manage that stress and make the craving all but a memory. Plus, with the mental high from taking care of yourself, you will feel twice as confident to stick to your goals.
Brush your teeth.
We all remember the day we were little and accidentally brushed our teeth before breakfast… Yuck! What a terrible taste! Channeling that inner child, keep a travel toothbrush and toothpaste on hand to combat cravings. It also is great to pair with tip #2- taking a break- so that you have a purpose to your break.
Pop a piece of chewing gum.
Cinnamon bark, dried ginger, and peppermint leaves can also provide a needed distraction from a craving. A great bonus is peppermint and ginger are great for digestion; cinnamon is also being currently studied for its ability to prevent heart disease, diabetes, and improving brain function. All of these in their holistic forms should be available at a natural foods store.
Set an alarm on your computer for 15 minutes from the time the craving hits.
Continue to work committedly on whatever subject you are tackling, or if you are home- try some housework, and then come back to if the craving is still there.
Now that you are armed with keeping your cravings under control, go out there and tackle those final steps with weight loss! Remember that you are only human; we are all works in progress, not perfection. If you succumb to a craving, get back on the healthy horse right away- don’t give up and remember your goals! Stay positive and move forward!