Not eating properly is the main reason we get cravings. Skipping meals, too small portion sizes and not eating a balanced diet when trying to lose weight often leave the body low in nutrients and energy. If it gets too little of these, it will sooner or later start demanding them with vehemence.
Another reason for the intense desire for specific foods is linked to our emotions. From an early age, we attach positive associations to certain foods and flavours: ice cream at the beach in summer, cake on Sunday afternoon with the family. Food is frequently also used as a reward: a warming drink after a strenuous hike, chocolate to soothe you when you’ve grazed a knee. Associations like these are deeply rooted within us. Studies have shown that the enjoyment of certain foodstuffs activates many of the same brain regions as drugs of abuse. Since we mainly resort to sweet and/or fatty foods in emotional moments, this mechanism isn't without problems.
Auch Gerüche können in hohem Masse zu Heisshunger beitragen. Auf dem Weg zur Arbeit möchte man nur rasch beim Bäcker den Morgenkaffee besorgen. Da steigt einem der verführerische Geruch von frisch gebackenen Gipfeli entgegen und schwupp landet eines in der Tasche obwohl wir gar nicht hungrig sind.
Last but not least, the force of habit repeatedly makes us eat or drink things despite not feeling any hunger pangs. Reaching for a chocolate bar after a meal, snacking on a bun during the morning coffee break. The brain is playing a trick on us here. It associates familiar situations with the enjoyment of specific foods.
We now know how cravings arise or are triggered, but how can they be avoided? The rule here is simple: prevention is better than cure.
5 tips on beating cravings:
1. Eat better, not less
At first sight it seems logical to eat smaller portions and skip meals in order to cut calories. However, payback soon comes in the form of cravings, which we struggle to resist in the long term. So, make sure to eat better (i.e. a more balanced diet), not less. Your plate should contain fibres, vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fish, eggs and healthy fats (e.g. from nuts, seeds or avocado, etc.).
2. Clear out your store cupboards
If you have it in the house, you’ll end up eating it – especially if you get cravings. So, clear out your store cupboards. If it’s healthy, keep it – if it’s unhealthy, bin it.
- Proteins, dairy products: chicken, tofu, cottage cheese, eggs, milk, etc.
- Grains, pulses: quinoa, wholewheat pasta, lentils, oats, sweet potatoes, etc.
- Fruit and veg
- Healthy fats: rapeseed oil, coconut oil, linseed, nuts, etc.
- Sugar and sweetened foods: fruit yoghurts, Nutella, (sweetened) muesli mixtures, ketchup, syrup, soft drinks, etc.
- Ready-made / processed foods: deep-frozen pizza, ready-made sauces, white pasta, mashed potato mix, sausage meats, etc.
- Unhealthy fats and oils: margarine, coffee cream, sunflower oil, etc.
- Snacks and nibbles
Stress increases emotional eating and cravings. Try to get enough sleep, do exercise, maybe do yoga or plan a weekend trip to the mountains.
4. Deal with hunger between meals
Plan ahead and nip cravings in the bud. If you often feel hungry between meals, be sure to have a selection of healthy snacks (e.g. nuts) to hand at the office and at home.
5. Don’t reward yourself with food
Think about what gives you pleasure and establish new reward habits that have nothing to do with food. For example, taking a relaxing bath, reading a book, going for an evening walk, etc.