Many patients have told me that cravings have sabotaged their attempts to lose weight in the past. Here are a few strategies to help you prepare for the onset of food cravings, so that you can stop compulsive overeating. When you plan in advance to control food cravings, it’s much easier to lose weight and keep it off.
What Causes Food Cravings?
Six Ways to Curb Food Cravings
1. Flaxseeds or Chia Seeds Keep Away Hunger
Flaxseeds and Chia seeds are remarkable tools for keeping hunger at bay because of their high fiber content. Look for opportunities to make them part of your meals, particularly breakfast. They’ll help you feel full and satisfied, and give you lasting energy. When you feel full because of eating high fiber content foods, it’s much easier to control food cravings. The excellent nutrition in these seeds help too.
1 to 2 teaspoons of ground flaxseeds, or whole Chia seeds can be sprinkled onto cereal, oatmeal, an omelette, yogurt, or into a shake or smoothie.
The journal Appetite reports that folks who snack on a handful of flaxseeds feel fuller faster, stay satisfied longer, and eat about 300 fewer calories at their next meal. Chia seeds were renowned as the food of Mayan messenger runners, who would snack on them as they ran from town to town, carrying no other food but a few ounces of Chia seed. The word Chia meant “strength” in their language.
2. Green Tea to Curb Stress Eating
Green tea is a powerful secret used to curb stress eating. Sipping a cup of green tea instead of reaching for a bag of chips when you’re stressed will help you feel satisfied and calmer.
Green tea stabilizes blood sugar and helps curb appetite, and contains the amino acid L-theanine that naturally reduces stress. It’s also been proven to help reduce belly fat. Just the act of holding a hot drink and slowly sipping it is calming, and knowing you’ve made a healthy choice instead of a self sabotaging one helps too.
3. Decide to Stop Eating on the Couch
When you’re trying to lose weight, the television is your enemy (or at least the commercials are). This is a good time to PVR your shows and fast-forward through the commercials, or watch more Netflix. If you pay attention, you’ll find that a huge number of commercials are designed to trigger hunger and snacking.
A strategy to deal with this if you can’t avoid commercials, is to decide that if you get up to eat, the TV goes off and you eat in the kitchen or dining room. In other words, no snacking on the couch. Recognizing the commercials are manipulating you, and separating your eating from your entertainment, will help you enjoy food more and eat less of it.
4. Visualize a Nonfood Pleasure
If you catch yourself thinking about food, trying to force yourself to stop doesn’t usually work. What does work, however, is to substitute a visualization of something else that gives you pleasure. Scientists at Montréal’s McGill University suggests that consciously making the visualization substitution will help your cravings vanish.
So when you close your eyes and vividly imagine a tropical beach, swimming under a waterfall, or reading in front of a cozy fire on a winter’s night, you will distract the part of your brain that controls cravings. Visualization is powerful!
5. Beat Your Sweet Tooth
There is a supplement that helps some people reduce sugar cravings, or cravings for fat. A recent study indicated that women who took a 200 mcg chromium picolinate substitute daily consumed 25% fewer calories each day than women who didn’t take the supplement.
Chromium aids in blood sugar control, increases energy and decreases body fat. It is sometimes used to treat depression and to lower bad cholesterol. Although the functioning of chromium picolinate is not fully understood, it appears to aid some people in improving the way their bodies use insulin.
Chromium picolinate should be taken for no more than six months, and should not be taken by anyone with blood disorders, liver or kidney damage. Consult your doctor before adding any supplement, and understand that there is no pill which will, by itself, cause you to lose significant weight.
If your sweet tooth is your downfall, I’ve written previously about ways to control sugar cravings.
6. Feel Better and Stop Cravings
Another supplement, the amino acid 5-HTP, may help you lose weight up to three times faster, according to studies at the University of Rome. Study participants chose to eat up to 1000 fewer calories per day when supplementing with 600 mg of 5-HTP.
5-HTP is a building block of serotonin. Serotonin is a brain hormone that controls cravings and helps you feel full on fewer calories, and is also used to treat mood disorders such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and depression.