Learn to Manage Misplaced Food Cravings
Food cravings can be a struggle for many of us who are trying to lose weight or simply eat healthier. So, let's dive into what are cravings and what can cause them or trigger them. You might be surprised to hear that the vast majority of cravings are not actually tied to a physical need for nourishment. Many cravings are caused by emotional hunger rather than physical hunger. To learn more about the differences between Emotional vs. Physical hunger, check out our blog here. Because eating is something that we do day in and day out each and every day, it can sometimes become an "autopilot" task to our brains. Being more mindful about meals can help to reduce food cravings when you are more actively engaged with your eating cycle. If you've created a habit of "snacking on a bag of chips at 3P" then it's important to take steps to re-engage with this habit and work to replace it! Try to avoid skipping meals as much as possible. Skipping meals might be the cause of feeling overly hungry, which usually results in overeating once you decide to have a snack. Eating at regular intervals can help to create routine that will minimize aimless grazing and snacking. And for yet many more of us, cravings can boil down to "boredom eating."When you are bored, it's not uncommong to mindlessly wander into the kitchen and begin rummaging...unfortuantely, the majority of us aren't rummaging through the vegetable drawer, and instead gravitate to empty calories such as chips, candies, and sweets. These empty calories can only satisfy you for so long (and may even lead to cravings for more foods - especially true of sugars in particular). If you've just got to snack, then we recommend trying to grab something healthier for feeling fuller longer. Protein in particular is a great option that can provide satiety with less calories than somthing sugary or fatty.
At the end of the day conquering cravings and mindless boredom eating starts with identifying your hunger cues. Once you become more aware of your true hunger cues, you can take steps to reduce and replace them! Here are some of our favorite strategies for navigating and overcoming cravings that are a result of mindless boredome eating:
- Get Plenty of Rest – Going to bed a little earlier can cut out some of the most challenging hours for nighttime snacking. Moreover, the extra rest will help you stay energized the next day, which helps anyone better manage boredom in their life.
- Practice Mindful Eating – Mindfulness about what you eat can help you cope with emotions as well as better appreciate physical sensations of hunger and satiety.
- Plan Your Snacks – In the absence of hunger, it is easy to turn to food when you are bored watching TV or doing a mind-numbing task. Boredom eating may offer temporary relief, but it can have a negative effect, so plan for healthy sized snacks.
- Move, Move, & Move – Boredom eating can be triggered by a host of negative emotions. However, it also leads to unconscious overeating. Before you give in to a sudden food craving, get up and move. Take a short walk, make up your bed, but do something to change up your brain chemistry.
- Drink Water - oftentimes what we perceive as a hunger-craving is actually a thirst-craving. Next time you find yourself feeling the urge to rummage in the pantry, take a stop by the water dispenser and down a glass first. Wait a few minutes, and you just might find that you're not actually as hungry as you thought you were. Plus, all of us could probably use an extra glass of water anyway!
Boredom eating often occurs when you are in the throes of a physical, emotional, or mental stressor. It is natural to gravitate toward comfort foods to escape dealing with your emotions by deferring them for a later time. The problem with this kind of reactive snacking is that it provides us with a highly temporary feeling of relief...and when the "eating high" passes, we are usually left feeling worse off than before (because whatever was stressing us is still probably there if we haven't attended to it, and we just ate something that we didn't need to...which in turn can stress us out more and perpetuate the cycle of emotional eating...thus the cycle continues and grows out of control if unchecked). Explore ways to resolve stress or escape from stress that do not involve food. Some of our favorite non-food ways to destress are listening to music, taking a bath, meditating, journaling, or going for a walk!
Studies have shown that being busy is a better alternative to being bored. People who are focused on the task at hand are happier than those who are idle or have more empty downtime. Now this is not to say that we don't need any downtime at all - we most certainly do need time to rest and recharge with restorative downtime. It's when we rest and remain idle past longer than what we need that the effects of boredom can begin to take hold. We also want to clarify that "being idle" doesn't necessarily mean "doing nothing". Many instances of boredom are caused by being stuck in a situation that is idle in the sense that it is repetitive or monotonous. Since "attention span" is closely linked to being bored, paying more attention to the task at hand and being more mentally engaged can help to reduce boredom and idle and wandering thoughts.
Has boredom eating taken ahold of your life and spiraled out of control? The professionals at Metabolic Research Center can help. With customized weight loss menus and personalized coaching around your goals, your struggles, and your lifestyle, you can take back control of your weight and health! Click here to learn more and schedule a free consultation with a Weight Loss Specialist at MRC today.
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