Cravings. Those little monsters living in our bellies that make us think we’re hungry so we’ll overeat, put on the extra pounds, so they have more space to make more little monsters. How selfish of them. Get a room, cravings!
All jokes aside, we all have them, and more often than not, we feel guilty when we give in. And unfortunately, I don’t have a secret formula to ignore them. I found out throughout the years that ignoring them ALL THE TIME makes me very unhappy and always ended in a binge. I decided to be smart about it instead, and that works much better.
Identify common triggers
1. Lack of sleep
Every one of us has specific moments, activities or feelings that trigger the need to munch. However, there is one in particular that is the same for ALL of us. Lack of sleep during the night means cravings the next day. Believe me, after a night when the dog is sick and keeps me up for a few hours, the next day all I can imagine is a talking bag of peanuts that cries my name on the middle shelf of the nearby Tesco. The more fat and the more salt, the better. And if I’m so tired that my mind is blank, I get up, put my jacket on and start walking towards the supermarket like a remote-controlled robot.
Stress has similar effects on our hormones as the lack of sleep.
If I don’t have something to do, I immediately think about eating. My robot self takes over and activates the Peanut Bag Rescue Mission programme. Sometimes I don’t even know how I got into Tesco’s!
4. TV Ads
This is exactly their purpose. And hell, it’s working! Happy families sharing a meal, Nicole Scherzinger liking a spoon of yoghurt, melting chocolate and steamy baked potatoes. Of course you want some too. TV is bad for your health in more ways than one, but it’s still entertainment, and we have to make it work.
Once you identified your own patterns and you find yourself in one of those situations, acknowledge it and take action. Firstly, try to fix the cause and then move on to dealing with the cravings.
Telling you to ignore the feeling and not eat would be a waste of both our time. However, I’ll tell you that you can be smart about it.
0. Fix the cause
Get some rest if you didn’t sleep well, give yourself something to do if you’re bored, etc. Dealing with stress is something I’ll talk about in detail some other time, but try a Yoga class or meditation, that always helps me!
1. Keep hydrated
Drink water or warm unsweetened tea throughout the day; it will give you a satisfying fullness sensation. Also, thirst can sometimes be mistaken for hunger, so being hydrated will help avoid the confusion.
2. Make a smoothie or protein shake with extra liquid
When solution number 1 doesn’t work, go to the next level. Prepare a smoothie or protein shake and add some extra water to the normal portion of plant-based milk. Take your time drinking it. For a low amount of calories, it will give you something to do and make your belly happy. Opt for something that’s not very sweet, because sugar always wants more sugar afterwards.
3. Pick snacks that take a long time to eat
My favourite one in this category is grapefruit. I can spend half an hour or maybe more eating a couple of them. Your stomach has enough time to process and recognize that it’s full and you’re happily munching away. Any types of seeds or nuts that are still in their shells count, but will have more calories, and you need to pay attention to the salt content if they’re not raw.
4. Have some fruit and nuts in your bag
If you really want to eat something, eat. But plan it ahead, and you’re more likely to eat what you have available in your bag than going out to buy something.
Apples, bananas, nuts and even a plain yoghurt might work.
5. Low-calorie foods
I have a blog post where I tell you my current broccoli obsession. Yes, I can make it taste good. So good that you will crave it!
6. Our taste buds crave what they’re used to
The healthier you eat overall, the more you’ll crave the good stuff, and that’s not a problem. You can eat broccoli until you pop and not put the weight of a feather on. I crave juicy fruit, tofu and sometimes tomatoes. Yes, I also dream about nut butters, salty roasted peanuts and Oreos. But giving in to the temptation is not as bad as when I used to crave pizza every other evening. Your taste buds adapt to your lifestyle, make it a good one!
I’m gonna end with one small tip to help you make the difference between wanting to eat and needing to eat. If you’re not hungry enough to eat a carrot, you’re not hungry at all. It’s just a craving, so feed it the good stuff!