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7 ways to fight food cravings

A scrumptious snack can provide the perfect afternoon pick-me-up, but be careful not to overindulge.  If you are constantly craving sweet or salty treats, determine the reason for your hunger and find a way to subdue it.  

It may not be easy, but here are seven things you can do to fight food cravings:

1. Ask yourself if you are actually hungry. The desire to eat can arise when you are feeling bored, celebrating at a party, or even when you are nursing sad emotions. So before you grab a snack, it’s important to listen to your body.

“If your stomach is growling, or if you are getting fatigued and it has been over 90 minutes, you are probably hungry,” says Haley Robinson, a clinical dietitian with Piedmont Atlanta Hospital.  “Eating every three to four hours really helps with hunger pains and also helps with controlling your metabolism. If you are actually hungry, you will be ready to eat anything and you will know it is not just a craving.”

2. Indulge a little. Denying yourself of the foods you crave can lead to feelings of guilt and shame, and ultimately binge eating. Instead of completely giving up potato chips, chocolate or ice cream, treat yourself to a smaller portion. Or split your snack with a friend.

3. Be mindful. If you want to distinguish between hunger and eating on impulse, practice mindful eating. Mindful eating prompts you to pause and listen to your body before and during meals. If you’re angry, stressed, bored or sad, wait 10 minutes before eating to determine if you are truly hungry. If you do choose to eat a treat, don’t judge yourself. Simply enjoy it.

4. Take a nap. Being sleepy may cause you to have an increase in appetite and a craving to increase your calorie intake.  Sleep loss interferes with leptin, an appetite suppressing hormone, and ghrelin, a peptide secreted by the stomach to stimulate appetite.

“When you are sleepy the leptin levels in the blood decrease and ghrelin levels increase,” says Robinson. “Together, this causes you to consume excess calories in a day.”

5. Drink more water. Sometimes dehydration can take the form of mild hunger. Drinking 12 ounces before meals controls cravings and creates a sense of fullness.

6. Distract yourself. If you are craving something, try to distract yourself. You can take a walk, call a friend, or watch TV.

“This usually keeps the craving away,” says Robinson.  “Then you completely forget about it, or you are able to make better decisions.”

7. Try to figure out why you are craving a certain food.  

“If you eat something sweet, it can cause you to crave more sweet foods,” says Robinson. “But if you add protein and fiber to each meal or snack, you can limit the craving by decreasing the blood sugar response.”

For more helpful, healthful tips, click here.

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