Research has proven that humans suffer from two types of food cravings: physical and psychological cravings.
Physical cravings are caused by your body’s need for calories to enable daily functioning. Depending on your level of physical activity, you need to take in a certain amount of calories every day (ei: 2000)
Psychological cravings, however, are caused by emotions. “Comfort eating” and “comfort food” stem from these cravings. Urges often come late at night and may be triggered by various stimuli, including:
- Watching TV
- Viewing commercials for food
- Viewing someone else eating food
- Psychological Stress
- Smelling the aroma of cooking food
When these feelings occur, it is best to determine if you are truly hungry or if you are simply experiencing an emotional response.
The best way to determine if you are indeed hungry is to wait it out. Instead of running for the refrigerator, find another activity to do. Some find it helpful to ‘make a deal’ with themselves- when they feel the urge for a late night snack, they drink 2 glasses of water first. Often, the action of drinking water will satisfy the craving to put something in your mouth, and some find that by time they finish two glasses, they’ve forgotten about wanting a snack! Additionally, when we think we’re hungry, it may actually be a signal of thirst, so drinking water can never hurt. And if you do feel like you still want that snack, you’ll be in a better position to keep it light with a tummy full of water.
Be careful about the kind of foods you consume when you get hit by a craving. Snacking on junk food, such as potato chips and candy, will only increase your caloric intake. Try munching on some carrot sticks, cucumber or other veggies instead. Both are quite filling and will get rid of your craving, without making you fat.
If you find that you are having too much trouble avoiding your cravings, then keep a food diary. Every day, write down exactly what you eat, and how much of it you eat, and what activities you were involved in before you ate. You will be surprised by your own eating habits and may find the motivation to change.
Psychological cravings may also occur when you are under stress or worried about some event in your life. Eating is a reaction to this pressure, because it releases hormones in the brain, which make you happier and more relaxed. The same hormones, however, are also released during a good workout. Instead of crashing on the couch with a bag of buttery popcorn or salty Fritos the next time you have a personal issue, head to the gym or go for a run. These activities will keep you in shape and take your mind off your concerns as your body is happily filled with mood-altering endorphins.
It is important to be able to distinguish between these two types of cravings.
Do not ignore real, physical cravings. At a very basic level, your body needs at least 1200 calories every day with at least 1-2 liters of water just to perform the basic functions of life. If you find that you are struggling with body image, seek professional counseling. However, most Canadians and Americans can benefit from less snacking in their daily diets and more exercise.
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