10 Ways to Control Intense Food Cravings and Hunger Pangs
Unhealthy food cravings and hunger pangs are an everyday challenge for me. My love of food and regular snacking blows out my calorie count for the day, even before dinner. My hunger pangs have even led me to take appetite suppressants – with disastrous results. Unfortunately for me they have quite the opposite effect causing extreme hunger and irritability (pity my husband). Exercise also stimulates my appetite, leading me to overeat and replace the calories I just worked so hard to lose.
My quest for a healthier lifestyle has helped me to gain a better understanding of my constant food cravings. Although hunger pangs are still an everyday challenge for me, I have found a number of strategies that enable me to take control of my appetite and achieve my weight loss goals. I hope that they can help you too.
1. Smell Some Cocoa
When I read that smelling chocolate suppressed appetite, I was skeptical. Usually when I catch the scent of something chocolaty it gets my stomach gurgling. However, when I took the time to read the research published in 2010, it got me thinking. By using dark chocolate, 85% cocoa with 12.5g/100g of sugar, they were able to successfully satiate the appetite of participants simply by having them smell it. So I gave it a go and it worked! But I don’t always have dark chocolate in the cupboard as that sort of thing disappears quickly in my household. So I experimented and found that smelling a good quality cocoa also successfully satiates my sugar cravings. As I always have cocoa in the cupboard, it’s a great solution for me. Personally, I prefer the rich aroma of Green and Blacks cocoa (it’s also great for baking – but this is not an appropriate topic right now!). It has such a strong scent that it fulfils my cravings for something chocolaty.
Green & Blacks - Organic Cocoa Powder
Green & Blacks cocoa powder is organic and 100% fairtrade. It smells amazing!
This study also found that melting a 30g (1 ounce) piece of the dark chocolate in your mouth satiates appetite. So if you are planning on eating some chocolate as a special treat, make sure you choose a dark chocolate and let it melt on your tongue - don’t chew it!
To help satiate sugar cravings, melt a piece of dark chocolate in your mouth.
2. Avoid Smelling Food That Is High in Sugar and Fat
Research carried out on binge eating has shown that smelling high sugar, high fat food can provoke an increase in appetite. So if you can, avoid all situations where you may be confronted by these smells and try to hold your breath as you walk past the fast food restaurants and bakeries!
Do you struggle with food cravings and hunger pangs?
3. Drink a Large Glass of Water.
Did you know that we often mistake thirst for hunger? Drinking a large glass of water when you feel hungry not only suppresses your appetite but also provides you with the essential hydration your body needs to boost your metabolism and assist with weight loss.
When we are dehydrated, it affects the functioning of our kidneys which filters toxins from our body. This in turn puts added pressure on the liver to take some of this load which then affects its ability to carry out its usual job of metabolizing fat, an important function for weight loss. Many people don't realize that they are exacerbating their dehydration by consuming drinks containing caffeine, such as coffee, tea and coke. They act as diuretics and can affect our ability to lose weight. Try reducing your intake of caffeinated of drinks and replace them with water instead.
Not a Fan of Water?
Try adding a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime to give it a pleasant flavor with the added benefits of vitamin C.
The benefits of water don’t stop there. Did you know that drinking a glass of water 30 minutes before a meal can prevent you from overeating? So no more excuses! Grab that glass of water and drink it down.
4. Eat a Small Tub of Low Calorie Yogurt.
Yogurt is a great low calorie snack that helps to satiate your hunger and keep your appetite in check. Research has shown that it can also help you to lose weight. Those on a calorie controlled diet that included yoghurt as a daily snack lost more weight that those that didn’t. They also retained more lean muscle mass which helps you burn more calories and maintain weight loss.
Yogurt is also excellent for controlling sugar cravings. You may think yogurt a poor substitute for that donut craving, but once consumed, the yogurt can really help to reduce, if not stop, the sugar cravings. But be careful when buying yogurt because most of the low fat options usually contain a ridiculous amount of sugar to help them taste better. Try buying the “natural” yogurt with only 1-2% fat and no sugar. If you haven’t eaten this kind of yogurt before you may initially struggle with the absence of sugar, so try adding some berries to sweeten it. This happened to me but after sticking it out for a week, my taste buds actually grew accustomed to it and now I really enjoy it.
If you are having trouble finding yogurt without the added sugar, then try making your own. Yogurt is really easy to make, all you need is a yogurt maker and some yogurt starter. Try Euro Cuisine, they sell a good quality yogurt maker and yogurt starter for a very reasonable price.
Make Your Own Healthy Fruit Yogurt
Add a tub of 1-2% fat, sugar free yogurt and your favorite berries to your food processor. Blend until combined.
Making yogurt has never been easier with this Euro Cuisine yogurt maker. Try making your own yogurt to help you achieve your healthy eating goals.
Use this Euro Cuisine yogurt starter to make your own delicious health yogurt to help you achieve your healthy eating goals.
5. Immerse Yourself in Other Activities
Distraction is a great strategy for those of us who get hungry simply because we are bored or crave the enjoyment of our favorite flavors in our mouth. Instead of eating, try going for a walk, ringing a friend or jumping on the computer, anything that takes your mind of your hunger pangs. After 20 minutes of being distracted you'll soon find those hunger pangs dissipating.
There are many of us that eat because we are lonely or bored. We may even have experienced some kind of loss, creating a void that we try to fill with food. Instead, we need to look for more positive and fulfilling ways to meet our needs such as a new hobby, spending time with family and friends or joining a club. Understanding and acknowledging this can help us realize that food is not the answer to our problems and only serves to cause us more mental and physical suffering in the long term.
6. Change Your Way of Thinking
How many of us feel hungry at set times of the day? Is this because we are hungry or because we have conditioned ourselves to eat at these defined periods of time? Take the time to ask yourself, what does “feeling hungry” mean to me? Does it mean that my stomach is empty and my body needs sustenance? Or is it that I just don’t feel “stuffed full” and could therefore fit more food in? This is certainly how it was for me. I had to reset my thinking because my signal to stop eating was when I could no longer stuff anything more into my stomach. I had to learn to recognize what being “comfortably full” was and realize that if I stopped eating at this point, I could still feel satisfied.
Sometimes our hunger is purely psychological. Ever found yourself craving food after watching TV commercials? Often we don’t even notice that this type of marketing is having an effect on our feelings of hunger. Day to day we are bombarded with unhealthy food images (billboards, sides of trucks, shop displays etc…). We are so accustomed to seeing them that we are no longer consciously register them. However, we don’t realize the influence that these images are having on us at a subconscious level. Being aware of these marketing tricks and how they attempt to control your appetite can help you to overcome these types of food cravings.
7. Don't Be so Hard on Yourself
If you do end up giving in to your cravings, don't beat yourself up about it. It will only cause you to feel like a failure and lead you to give up on your healthy eating goals. It’s important to understand that nobody is perfect, we all have our slip ups. We must forgive ourselves and see it for what it was - a minor deviation from our path. Just get straight back on that path and keep moving towards your goal. It is also important to take the time to learn from our mistakes. Ask yourself, what led you to give in to your cravings? What was happening at the time? How were you feeling? If the situation was to arise again, how you would respond differently?
When I attend events I find myself presented with lots of temptations. I used to go nuts and eat everything, even food that I would never even consider buying or making myself because I didn’t actually like them much. I was just eating it because it was there in front of me (and free!). But now when I find myself in these situations I stop and think, is there anything on this table that would actually be a real treat for me? Is there something that I would consider one of my favorites? I ask myself “am I actually hungry and do I really need to eat right now”? I take the time to honestly answer these questions. If my answer is “yes”, then I will indulge myself and take a (small) piece. I find this helps keep my eating in check by preventing the cravings from building up and causing me to gorge at the next opportunity I get.
Tip: If there is more than one thing I want, I either choose one favorite, or take a little portion of each. Then I don’t feel like I’m missing out.
8. Eat Low Calorie Snacks That Are Both Filling and Satiating
These foods contain a lot of water which fills up the stomach and increases satiety. This can help prevent you from indulging in your unhealthy food cravings and deviating from your calorie plan. They are also full of vitamins, nutrients and other health benefits. Try the following delicious foods:
- Lettuce and leafy greens
- Celery (Be aware that some people have an allergy to celery)
- Grapefruit (Grapefruit should not be consumed with some types of medications, check with your pharmacist or Doctor.)
- Tomatoes (cherry tomatoes are an especially delicious snack)
9. Eat Nutritious, Filling Meals
Experiencing hunger pangs an hour after eating? You need to start eating filling, nutritious meals to help you feel fuller for longer and prevent hunger pangs between meals. Try to avoid foods that are high in sugary carbohydrates, as they don’t keep you feeling full and satisfied for very long and before you know it you’ll be eating again. Try including the following foods in your meal plan:
- Broth based soup
- Legumes such as beans, lentils, chickpeas
10. Don't Keep Unhealthy Snacks in the House
Knowing that I have snacks in the cupboard causes intense cravings, even when I’m not actually hungry. When grocery shopping I try to completely avoid entering the snack aisle, otherwise the temptation is too strong. I accept that I struggle to resist the lure of junk food, so why make it worse for myself? I also take the time to eat before going to the supermarket. This can really help you avoid impulse purchases.
Share Your Tips
What are your strategies for managing food cravings and hunger pangs?
Please share your favorite tips in the comments below!
American Chemical Society. (2010, August 23). Drink water to curb weight gain? Clinical trial confirms effectiveness of simple appetite control method. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 21, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100823142929.htm
Drewnowski A. Metabolic determinants of binge eating. Addictive Behaviors (Nov-Dec, 1995), 20 (6), 733-745
Massolt, E. T., van Haard, P. M., Rehfeld, J. F., Posthuma, E. F., van der Veer, E., & Schweitzer, D. H. (2010). Appetite suppression through smelling of dark chocolate correlates with changes in ghrelin in young women. Regulatory peptides, 161(1), 81-86.
Zemel, M. B., Thompson, W., Milstead, A., Morris, K., & Campbell, P. (2004). Calcium and dairy acceleration of weight and fat loss during energy restriction in obese adults. Obesity research, 12(4), 582-590.
© 2015 C L Mitchell