How to stop cravings | Reduce calorie intake to lose weight
Dealing with cravings is the biggest problem for people that want to lose weight.
That’s because cravings contribute a lot to the so-called empty calories that you consume during the day.
Empty calories are calories that don’t help you to feel satisfied.
An example is high sugar soft drinks like coca cola.
If you can stop these cravings interfering with your weight loss goals, you can reduce your calorie intake significantly.
That will help you to lose weight faster.
In this blog, I will teach you what cravings are, how the body produces them, and how they are different from feeling hungry.
After reading this blog, you will exactly know how to stop cravings to lose weight and not feeling hungry.
The best way to do this is by exercising. Walking for an hour every day will reduce your cravings significantly. with an activity tracker you can monitor your walking effort to keep you motivated. it stimulates you to push harder every time to burn more calories and walk longer distanced. That helps in both losing weight, reducing hunger and cravings.
So let’s start!
1. What is the difference between feeling cravings and feeling hungry
First, let’s talk about the difference between the two.
If you can tell them apart, it’s easier to ignore the cravings because you know you don’t have to fulfill them.
The main difference is that when you feel hungry, you want to eat anything as long as it makes your hunger go away.
When you feel cravings, its always for one specific food, usually it’s either fat or full of sugar.
It could be something you’re accustomed to eating at that time, usually or something that just happened to be right in front of you.
When you feel hungry, you will eat an apple or banana without thinking about it. But did you ever really crave for a banana?
The difference lies in the way hunger and cravings are produced in your body.
If you know how this works, it will be easier to reduce the cravings or ignore them until they go away.
2. Why do you feel hungry
When food was not as abundant as it is now, eating the seasonal availability of food sources often determined patterns.
But nowadays, food is available always and everywhere.
Despite that, we don’t eat regularly.
Your body produces signals when you need food, but also when you have had enough.
It has become evident that such signals are the result of complex processes involving physiological, sensory, cognitive, environmental, and social factors.
That means that many factors determine if you feel hungry or not.
They influence the two mechanisms that contribute to the inhibition of food intake:
Satiation and satiety.
Satiation defines as a set of complex processes that progressively inhibit the motivation to eat during an eating event. When you start eating it’s because you feel hungry because it’s time to eat and the social situation.
When you’re in a situation where you’re usually eating, like in a restaurant, this will increase the feeling of being hungry.
That means that when you’re used to eating a lot or very often, your body produces feelings of hunger more frequently.
These are the physiological and environmental factors I talked about earlier.
Satiety is the inhibitory mechanism that takes place after the end of an eating episode and prevents the return of hunger for a variable duration. It’s a powerful mechanism that allows the matching of intake to energy needs to the energy content of the previous meal for the next one.
But because mealtimes depend on time, this mechanism doesn’t work that well anymore in humans. That means that you will eat at the next socially determined eating occasion, without being hungry. The satiety mechanism makes sure that you can’t eat much.
However, because you still eat something you’re consuming more calories, then you need. That results in weight gain.
Inefficient appetite control, hunger, satiation, and satiety occur in succession and allow the adjustment of energy intake to energy needs. The present epidemic of obesity shows that many things can go wrong in appetite control when powerful and ubiquitous stimulatory influences override inhibitory mechanisms.
3. How your body produces satiety
The inhibition of intake is called the Satiety Cascade. It inhibits the input of any food sharing the sensory characteristics, like smell, taste and even the shape and the color of ingested foods in the hours following consumption.
This mechanism doesn’t work well with every food or drink.
For example, after caloric beverages, like high sugar sodas, this mechanism doesn’t work well. Your body doesn’t recognize the amount of sugar and the number of calories as it does in solid foods.
It results in overconsumption, which is one of the main reasons for overweight people. They consume more calories than they use because they don’t make you feel full.
Also, signals from the gastrointestinal tract, like chemoreceptors and stretch receptors increases your satiety feeling.
Most of them are hormonal such as leptin, insulin, glucagon, and ghrelin. That means that there are enough fat, sugar, and protein consumed to fulfill the energy needs.
That means that feeling hungry is more a problem of failed satiety than the real need to eat.
Your body produces cravings differently.
4. How your body produces cravings
Unlike hunger, cravings don’t have much to do with the need of macronutrients like fat, sugar, or protein.
Peter Rogers and Hendrik Smit of the Department of Experimental Psychology of the University of Bristol presented a paper in 1999, stating that “food cravings is an intense desire to eat a particular food.”
The best example might be chocolate for many people. They call themselves chocoholic or addictive to chocolate.
An important reason for this could be that chocolate improves mood. Chocolate cravings are associated with negative feelings like boredom, tension, anger, depression, and tiredness.
Many people believe that psychoactive or mood-altering compounds in cocoa-containing products cause this. However, these concentrations are to low, and their effect on the brain is too weak to have a significant impact.
They found them also in higher concentrations in other products that don’t cause cravings at all.
The addictiveness for chocolate is likely to relate to the high amount of sugar it contains.
Cravings for Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates and especially sugar are known to increase alertness and reduce fatigue and improve mood. Research suggests that the balance of protein and carbohydrate consumed in a meal can affect brain serotonin neurotransmission, which enhances mood, mainly as occurs in carbohydrate cravings obesity, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and other conditions.
That means that being in a bad mood is one of the reasons for the production of cravings. It’s a way for your body to increase the serotonin level in your body.
Serotonin is produced both in your gut and in your brainstem. The serotonin in your gut forms out of tryptophan, which it mainly gets from eating protein. Serotonin built in your gut reduces your feeling of hunger, which will make you eat less.
This serotonin, however, can’t reach your brain because there is a barrier between your body and your brain it can’t cross.
That’s why eating eggs won’t make you feel happy.
Fortunately, your brainstem also produces serotonin.
When you eat carbohydrates the insulin level in your blood increases, which increases the amount of tryptophan in your blood, this is then synthesized by your brainstem into serotonin.
That is why people eat to feel better.
It has led to the suggestion that the increase in carbohydrate intake constitutes self-medication to relieve stress or depression. That’s why cravings and obesity are strongly linked together. They are both affected by your mood.
Unfortunate many foods that appear to reduce stress and improve mood are addictive.
Sugar withdraw helps to reduce carbohydrate cravings. That means that you can still rehab from your sugar addiction.
Furthermore, high sugar foods like junk food are often also high in saturated fats. It only increases calorie intake even more.
You don’t crave the fat but rather the sugar it also contains.
Nicotine has the same effect. It increases serotonin and dopamine in your brain. That results in improved mood and reduced cravings and feeling of hunger. That’s why quitting smoking makes you moody and hungry.
Another reason for cravings is learned behavior. If you’re expecting to get something specific to eat, you will feel cravings for that particular food. I will explain more about this now.
5. Learned behavior influences appetite and cravings
Eating consists of patterns during the day. We are taught to eat breakfast around 7 a.m., lunch around midnight, and dinner around 6 p.m.
That’s why you get hungry around that time.
Also, if you’re used to eating French Fries every Friday like I am, all you want to eat on Friday are French Fries. That is learned behavior.
Also, external cues can arouse appetite.
A colleague offering you a piece of a birthday cake will increase appetite. Also, smelling someone preparing food will make you feel hungry. That is all learned behavior and increases cravings.
6. How to stop cravings for junk food and sugar
To stop cravings for junk food and sugar, you need to increase your serotonin level differently.
It means that you have to make yourself happy without eating.
As I said before, mood and obesity are strongly linked together.
People that often feel sad, lonely, or angry have a much bigger chance of being obese than people that don’t.
Fortunately, there are several ways in which you can naturally increase your serotine level.
1. Use a calorie deficit
A study conducted in 2017 showed that diets with a calorie deficit reduce cravings for every type of food.
This calorie deficit needs to be maintained for at least 12 weeks to be effective. Also, specific targeting of cravings worked counterproductively. Completely cutting out sugar increased carvings whereas reducing both carbohydrates, fat, and protein decreased all cravings.
So you can successfully use a calorie deficit to lose weight, as long as you don’t do it to radical.
2. Do things that make you happy
Doing things you like has been shown to increase serotonin levels in the brain. It’s associated with less depression anxiety and overeating.
For example, you can take a walk in the forest or along the beach.
You can also visit friends or help someone in need. It will all make you feel better, which will help to reduce cravings.
3. Think about the long term consequences of your actions
A study conducted by Johann D. Kruschwitz, a professor at the University of Berlin, shows that thinking of long term consequences of your actions helps to reduce cravings.
So next time you crave pizza or McDonalds, think about what it will do with your weight loss goal next month. Are you still able to reach your goal, or is it better to choose for a healthier option.
The study showed that people who thought about the long term consequences of their actions were more likely to make the right decision and reported fewer cravings.
That means that you can reduce your cravings just by thinking.
4. Mindfulness training
A large study shows that mindfulness training reduces impulsive eating as well as binge eating and increase physical activity.
These are all factors that contribute to cravings, which means that mindfulness training can be one of the most powerful tools in reducing cravings and weight loss in the long term.
5. Don’t abandon food from your diet
Another reason why people feel cravings is that they quit specific food entirely from their diet when they try to lose weight.
But when you completely abandon something from your diet, it will only make you want it more.
Let’s take an example:
You LOVE eating at McDonald’s.
Unfortunately, you can’t because it’s high in calories and prevents you from losing weight.
So you abandon it entirely from your diet.
What will happen is that the urge to eat at McDonald’s becomes so big that you will eventually give up.
Not being able to eat, there will make you unhappy eventually. That is probably the number one reason why people give up on their diet.
It’s just too strict, and that induces cravings.
A much better way is to restrict it to once a week.
Commit to eating there once a week.
Preferable in the weekend.
This way, you can still enjoy the things you like, without messing up your diet completely.
It reduces cravings and improves your motivation to continue losing weight.
6. Identify craving situation
It is known that cravings are more present in specific circumstances.
So when you can identify and recognize the situations that cause your cravings to occur, you can try to avoid these cravings or fight them actively.
It will result in fewer cravings because the environmental effect on the production of these cravings will disappear. You will kill the association between the situation and the craving.
7. Exposure to bright light
Light also increase serotonin level. That is one of the reasons why so many people feel depressed during winter.
Because days are short, your brain produces less serotonin. It decreases mood and might increase cravings.
Bright light therapy is known to reduce seasonal depression.
There are two ways to increase the amount of bright light you receive:
The first way is by being more outside.
The sun is the best source for the bright light that will increase serotonin.
It’s free to use and available everywhere.
However, during winter, it’s not as strong as during the summer. Also, clouds reduce its effectiveness. But even on a cloudy day, the amount of light is much higher outside then it is inside.
So being more outside will help you reduce cravings.
The second way you can increase your exposure to bright light is by buying specially designed lamps. These lamps have the same effect and are also used in therapy sessions. You can buy a good one here.
A third way to increase serotonin is exercise. Exercise improves mood when regular exercisers undertake aerobic exercise at a level which they are familiar with.
Walking, cycling or swimming or running are easy to do activities that will help you to increase serotonin levels in your brain.
Exercises are also known to increase dopamine, also known as the happy hormone.
They also have many other positive physical effects, like reduced hypertension, cholesterol and reduced risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
I’m a runner myself, and I always feel happier and more energetic after I ran for an hour or so.
I know this is not easy for everyone, but I know everyone can train to be able to run for an hour.
9. Get enough sleep
Not getting enough sleep strongly correlates with obesity.
That’s because people that don’t sleep enough eat on average more carbohydrate-rich meals than people that do sleep enough.
One of the reasons for that is that lack of sleep disturbs insulin production. It increases cravings for carbohydrates to improve this balance.
Stress is also an essential reason for the lack of sleep as well as obesity.
That’s why all these problems have to be solved to lose weight.
10. Drink more water
Drinking more water during the day has shown to reduce the feeling of hunger and food cravings in people over 50 years old. The effect was much less with younger people.
Social and environmental factors work much stronger in younger people, then it does in older people, which might be the reason for this difference.
A good way to drink more water is to put a bottle at your desk. It will remind you to drink regularly and makes sure you’ll drink enough during the day.
I’ve selected a drinking bottle you can buy with some motivational quotes on it to help you reach your goals.
Now I want to hear from you
How do you try to reduce your cravings?
Do you exercise regularly or make sure you’re as happy as you can be.
Or do you have another tactic that helps you that you want to share?
Leave a command below
Let’s make the world healthy again!