Shelly Greenfield: Cravings are normal; here's help dealing with them
Cravings. We all have them at some point.
We know what foods qualify as junk food, and that we shouldn't be eating them, but sometimes saying "no" just doesn't work. There are some things you can do go put a halt to those cravings and get back on track of healthier eating.
Depending on whether you are having a psychological or physiological response, or are lacking nutrients, your plan of action will be different.
I am a sweet tooth, so yes I could eat sugary foods and desserts any time of day. I am just wired that way. Our preferences often get reinforced by rewarding ourselves with sweet treats, which can make you crave them ever more.
Giving in to a treat here and there is not usually the problem, but rather when we over-indulge and over-consume, something we as Americans are good at. I just know that once I start with sweets, it can easily become out of control, and I know that I'm not alone in this.
Sugar is added to many processed foods, breads, yogurt, and juices, and without us even realizing it we are over-consuming too much sugar. The average American consumes about 22 teaspoons of sugar per day, according to the American Heart Association. Daily sugar intake recommendations for adult women are 5 teaspoons (20grams), 9 teaspoons (36 grams) for adult men, and 3 teaspoons (12 grams) for children.
Why do we love them so? Not just because they taste so good, but because there are also physiological factors that contribute to why our body wants more. These carbohydrates stimulate the release of serotonin, which is a feel-good brain chemical, as well as releasing endorphins that calm and relax us and offer a natural high.
What's worse are foods that have that perfect combination of salt, fat, and sugar that creates a response in the brain that keeps you coming back for more. Food manufacturers understand this phenomenon and actually develop products that make us want more.
If you are lacking specific nutrients in your diet, this can also have a direct impact on your cravings. If your diet is high in calories, but low in nutrients, you may not get that satisfied feeling from the foods you are consuming.
Here are some tips
So how do we curb these junk food cravings?
• Eat balanced nutrition, get rid of processed food, and eat more natural foods.Prepackaged foods will typically contain less of what we need and more of what we don't need. By including foods such as whole grains, fruit and vegetables that contain natural sugars, as well as plenty of lean protein, you will have better balanced nutrition. One of my personal tricks is to add an extra serving of a healthy fat, such as avocado, when my cravings may be higher.
• Get the junk food off your counter or out of your house.When you are feeling weak, "out of sight, out of mind" is better. I have special place in the pantry that I store my daughter's snacks, because I lack willpower some days, and I don't want it on the counter staring at me.
• Intermittent fasting can kick-start the sugar cleanse!It has been found that sugar stimulates the brain the same way as certain drugs, and avoiding sugar completely can be the key. By limiting your eating hours or simply choosing not to consume meals for an extended period of time at regular intervals, you can reset your cravings. Also, gaining this sense of self-control can help build confidence for those days when all you see and smell is junk food.
• If you are an emotional eater, and find yourself craving all the wrong stuff when you are bored, stressed, sad, or angry, it may be time to find another habit.Journal, meditate or even do a quick burst of activity to get your heart rate up and get rid of that craving! Taking control of your emotions will help you take control of your cravings. Distract yourself with motivational pictures or other things that make you happy.
If you feel overwhelmed, just remember that everything gets easier with practice! Stay consistent with your efforts so that your body can detox from the junk. When you slip up, drink lots of water, and just start over.