We probably all have experienced the desire to give in to food cravings. Cravings can occur at any point and more than often when are bored. They’re difficult to ignore and generally we will give in to those cravings when we desire certain foods. 

Food cravings can be bought on by several lifestyle factors and can be one of the biggest reasons why people don’t reach their health and fitness goals. 

Below are some reasons you may feel your cravings and some great tips to help beat the cravings helping you stay on track this year.

1.Plan your meals 

Weekly food prep allows you to plan ahead of time and keep you on track. It also helps you implement and stick with healthy eating habits when leading a busy schedule. 

When you home cook and prepare your meals, you remain in control of your nutrition and you know there are no hidden extra calories, PLUS not to mention the money you save by not buying a fast food. 

Where a lot of people come unstuck are those 3 pm munchies. This generally occurs when we are lacking motivation, bored or simply still hungry after lunch due to not having a well balanced prepared meal. No matter the reason, it ’s an easy one to fall victim to. 

Meal planning is a key element that makes your life more organised which therefore creates better habits. Even if you’re working from home, meal prepping will help you stick to your habits in the long term. 

Eat enough calories and protein

If you’re not eating enough, your body isn’t properly satisfied and you may not consume the vital nutrients your body needs. Your body enters survival mode and starts breaking down muscle to release the glucose stored inside, which can be used for energy. When this occurs, you can experience symptoms such as fatigue, brain fatigue, and potentially more serious long-term effects 

You also need to ensure you are eating enough protein to help nourish your body and also keep you feeling full for longer. Protein is the most satiating macronutrient and is an important part of a healthy diet and teaching your health & fitness goals.

Also, an important note to consider is to avoid overly restrictive diets – those chicken and broccoli diets are not sustainable. Instead, focus on a balance between the three important macronutrients – proteins, carbohydrates, and fats & water to maintain hydration. A healthy balance will leave you more satisfied, nourished, and likely less to feel those unwanted cravings. 

Drink lots of water

At times, thirst can be confused by your brain with hunger. If you do feel a sudden urge to eat food, consume a big glass of water, take a walk and wait a few minutes. You may find the cravings go away because your body is needing water to maintain hydration , otherwise, if you’re still hungry it might be time for a nutritious snack. 

Our bodies are made up of 60% water and muscles are over 70% water so there are also a number of health benefits when you consume enough water daily. As many studies show, this can include protecting organs and tissues, maintains healthy blood pressure, aiding digestion, and carrying nutrients and oxygen to your cells. 

As a general rule of thumb, you should aim for approx 42ml of water per kilo of weight.  If you find you still aren’t getting enough water, try setting alarms every hour throughout the day to remind yourself to have at least an 8 ounce glass. 

Reduce Stress 

If you find yourself stressed often, this may bring on food cravings and influence unhealthy eating patterns to curve emotional cues. Every time you’re feeling stressed, your body releases cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that regulates a wide range of processes throughout the body, including metabolism and the immune response. https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/cortisol/

When you have too much cortisol over a long period, you can experience muscle weakness, mood swings, rapid weight gain, fatigue and for women, irregular cycles. There have also been a number of studies showing a correlation between cortisol and psychiatric conditions, such as anxiety and depression. 

When you’re highly stressed, and your body releases cortisol, this can increase your appetite  because your brain perceives stress as a threat and triggers a response to replenish energy reserves, leading to cravings for comfort foods. Additionally, stress can affect neurotransmitters in the brain, influencing food-seeking behavior. So the key here is to manage your stress, with practicing mindfulness techniques such as meditation, breathing techniques, reading, walks in nature and creating healthy habits may help you combat stress. 

The bottom line

If you experience cravings, understand they are normal. Being prepared and knowing how to overcome the cravings to avoid binge eating or unhealthy food choices will be crucial to see some great progress towards your goals.

Following the tips on the list such as following a meal plan, planning your meals, staying hydrated, and practising keeping those stress levels lower than usual can help you avoid common cravings. 

Keep track of your daily habits and cravings in a journal to track when you are experiencing cravings. This will help you to determine if there are any triggers or lifestyle factors contributing to specific cravings.