I'm a firm believer that cravings are telling your body that you need something - not necessarily a particular food group or nutrient, just that there is a reason why you're craving and for the most part it will be emotive, habitual or hormonal.
If you're tired, stressed, upset, or physically drained then this is when you crave certain 'bad foods' the most. This is usually due to blood sugar instability, and the stress response that causes it to happen. For women especially, this is usually 10am or 3pm and ends in chocolate biscuit or crisp binges at their office desk. Simply put, you’ve used up a lot of energy stressing your body (physically or mentally) and now your body is craving the energy it needs to continue to function, and this is often sugar since this is the fastest and most easily absorbed energy source we can consume.
This can be due to work stress, deadlines, children, traffic, physical stress (including exercise) and lack of sleep to name a few. Our body will innately crave something to help boost our energy levels, and if we can understand that this will almost always be for something sweet, then we can start to put steps into place to overcome it.
Emotional eating is the number one hardest thing to resist and often leads to even more emotional eating because you emotionally ate - vicious cycle huh?
If you're heading straight for the chocolate, ice cream or alcohol in this instance then try take a deep breath, go for a walk, grab a large glass of water and think about what you really need. Will eating the whole pack of Tim Tams make you feel better? For the first instance in your mouth maybe, but afterward not at all. A salad with a small hot chocolate might be your way around that, or simply making your own homemade biscuits might be a therapeutic way to battle through your morning while the kids sleep. If you’re stuck in the office, I find the most rewarding break is one outside. Take 5 minutes, walk to the end of the road, take a few deep breaths and reset.
Often our hormones are linked to our emotions and if one is out of balance then the other will be too. I find for me I crave porridge when I'm all out of balance which I think ties directly to it being such a warming homely dish that reminds me of breakfast in bed, movies, and snuggling. All the good things right? It's not necessarily the porridge that I want but all those comforts that are linked to porridge.
So what can we really do about it?
The most important aspect of curbing cravings is to be prepared. If you only have access to negative foods, then you'll only eat those foods. Cook your dinner and make enough to take for lunch the next day. Make your own snacks and have them on hand at work. Have jars of nuts and seeds, some dark chocolate, and plenty of fluids available. Eat more protein to stay fuller for longer and have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables on hand for snacking. Add healthy fats like avocado dips, basil pesto with nuts or homemade beetroot hummus. They taste great, but you're packing more nutrients into your day.
The second most important aspect is to understand what is responisble for your cravings. Most often, it is lack of sleep which causes a small cortisol increase simply because you're running on borrowed energy, and this cortisol increase will innately push the sweet cravings up for energy. Go to bed without your phone or tablet 30 minutes earlier than normal. Relax, read a book or simply stretch and then close your eyes earlier. You cannot expect to function optimally throughout your day if you're not sleeping your best at night.
We talk more about quality sleep and how to get it in our Wellness Wednesday post, and if you need some more ideas for healthy snacks check out Chantal's healthy snack blog on her website.