We’re living in abnormal times. Or to put it more accurately, we’re living in stressful times. Naturally, you might find yourself longing for the familiar taste of a specific food while stuck at home. When that intense desire to eat kicks in, how should you respond?
Generally, food cravings kick in during our most vulnerable moments. Some reach for ice creams after breakups. Others turn to pizza to cope up with rejections. As a man experiences physical and emotional distress, his natural response is to seek immediate comfort and relief. Interestingly, food happens to provide both.
Since the pandemic is a time of extreme stress, food cravings can turn to the extreme. Before you give in to the sweet and fatty temptations, it’s best to know the smart ways to tame your food cravings. Below is a round-up of the top tricks to manage your intense desire to eat a particular food.
How to Manage Your Cravings
Manage your stress levels
There are many causes of intense food cravings. Stress is one of them. When a person is confronted with stressful or threatening situations, the body secretes different hormones as part of its fight or flight response. During this process, adrenaline is released, along with cortisol, the primary stress hormone. Similar to adrenaline, cortisol enables the body to react quickly in response to a perceived threat. However, over time, high cortisol levels in the bloodstream can cause your blood sugar to drop. As a result, you’re likely to crave sugary and fatty foods.
To prevent falling into the pit of uncontrollable food cravings, it’s best to keep yourself out of stressful situations. Exercising every day and finding fun hobbies you like are the most common ways to manage your stress levels. Other options include breathing exercises, listening to relaxing music, and even taking care of pets at home.
Get a full night’s sleep
Sleep deprivation is another cause of food cravings. Previous studies found that lack of sleep stimulates the release of ghrelin, the hunger hormone. At the same time, it reduces the level of leptin in the blood, the hormone responsible for suppressing hunger. As a result, people with less sleep are likely to wake up hungry and with a bigger appetite.
In a 2019 study, researchers also found sleep deprivation can affect people’s food choices. Specifically, sleep-deprived subjects tend to reach for foods with higher energy density, such as fries, chocolates, and pizza. The results show that sleep deprivation can expose people to unhealthy food selection and even increase the risk of obesity.
Accordingly, getting enough sleep can help you ditch these problems. You can set regular sleep and wake alarms to ensure you’ll get eight hours of sleep at home. Likewise, getting naps from time to time is also a good habit you’ll want to develop.
Believe it or not, your food cravings can sometimes indicate your body needs water. The reason can be traced to the part of the brain called the hypothalamus. When there is not enough water in the blood, the hypothalamus triggers our sense of thirst. However, the same part of the brain is also responsible for activating feelings of hunger. Due to this dual function of the hypothalamus, the body may sometimes misinterpret your thirst for hunger.
Drinking enough water every day will help you avoid irresistible food cravings. Instead of going for the usual eight-glasses rule, finish more than eleven glasses of water per day. If possible, cut down your soda and caffeine intake as well.
Don’t wait to get hungry
As much as possible, avoid skipping your meals. Don’t wait to get hungry. When we skip meals, our blood sugar level decreases. When this happens, we’re likely to feel stressed and irritated. This triggers the release of cortisol, which, in turn, increases our appetite.
Breakfast is essential. Various studies show that a person is more likely to get hungry and crave foods high in sugar and fat when they skip their early morning meals. Planning your meals is also a nice habit. If you’re too busy to prepare a meal, it’s better to order food from nearby restaurants than skip your meal. From time to time, you can reward yourself with popular high-protein recipes, such as chicken wraps or roasted salmon.
Eating healthy snacks between meals will also keep the food cravings away. Some good snack ideas include fresh fruits, Greek yogurt, and even banana ice cream. You can stack up these healthy snacks in advance and keep them in your fridge.