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Putting a Stop to Food Cravings!

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/21/2006 | Nutrition
Most of us are "regular" people. We don't eat the perfect diet all the time and have our struggles with food, same as everyone else. But having an awareness of this fact and knowing a little bit about our health and food nutrition can help when it comes to making wise decisions.

Many people struggle with food "cravings." Studies tell us that it's fairly common for food cravings to happen at certain times, quite often at around bedtime. Your guard may be down, you may have had an unusually hard day, and off you go on your not-so-merry way to find that tasty treat. Fatigue and stress often combine to take their toll on the best of intentions.

When food cravings are unconstrained, what starts out as a bedtime snack quickly turns into a full blown feeding frenzy...not something most of us fully understand or appreciate. We head to kitchen and every other place where food can hide, clearing a path as we go.

Most food cravings are not about satisfying a nutritional need or imbalance. They seem to be more emotionally related, or God forbid, are caused by plain old gluttony. Exactly why we over-indulge is not completely understood, however our knowledge about this subject continues to grow.

Listed below are some thoughts and ideas about food cravings:

- If the food isn't available, you can't eat it! Empty the cookie jar and keep it that way! Keep healthy food choices on-hand.

- Recognize the feelings and emotions that lead-up to a food craving. Do you have food cravings when youre bored, lonely, or stressed? If you can identify a trigger, you can deal with the emotion thats making you desire a certain food. Try to deal with the triggers in the best way you can.

- Sometimes, even recognizing that a craving is about to happen doesn't seem to help. Don't beat yourself-up. There is always tomorrow. Call a friend, make good use of your support network and share your feelings with someone.

- Get enough sleep. When youre tired, youre more likely to crave things.

- Never give-up. When you "slip", press-in, bear-down, get a grip, do whatever is necessary to re-gain control. Try to practice restraint most of the time, but don't get legalistic and un-balanced in your weight loss approach. Think moderation and not abstinence at all times!

- Understand that self-control and discipline by themselves, won't cut it! If you depend totally on yourself for control, you will fail. Forming caring and supportive relationships is required. If you do not currently have a support network, start building one TODAY.

- Exercise. It increases feel-good endorphins that cut down on your cravings. Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.

- Use moderation. Instead of stuffing yourself with every kind of food hoping that your craving will go away, eat 100 to 200 calories of your "craved" food.

- Substitute with low-fat foods and complex carbs. If youre hungry for chocolate, eat non-fat chocolate yogurt. Try fig bars or raisins for a sweet craving.

- Never skip a meal. Eat every three to five hours. Try six smaller meals or regular meals with nutritious snacks.

- Understand that hunger craving are oftentimes stress related. Practice other ways to treat chronic stress a walk in the park, spiritual connections, a cozy fireplace, baths...all these stimulate neurochemicals that activate regions of the brain that stimulate pleasure. Relaxation techniques may work by reducing the psychological drives on stress output, which can be the root causes of stress. Bottom line, substitute pleasurable experiences for comfort foods.

- Beware of certain medications. They can stimulate appetite. Drugs used for the treatment of depression and bipolar disorder can be appetite stimulants. Other drugs, both prescription and over the counter, may influence appetite as well. If you are on a medication, and troubled by food cravings, discuss this with your doctor or pharmacist. You may be able to find an alternative that doesn't send your cravings out of control.

- Distract Yourself. What's that old expression...idle hands are the devils workshop? Get busy. Do anything other than cave-in to your desire for food, and keep doing it until the cravings subside.

- One final thought, take a look inside your refrigerator and kitchen cabinets and do some general "house cleaning." Throw-out all that unhealthy stuff that is waiting to sabotage your diet, and start shopping more wisely. A little forethought and careful planning will go a long way for improving your chances of success.

Eat wisely, be happy, and live long!