Doughnuts are like kryptonite. You’re sitting at your desk, absorbed in a pile of admin, when out of the blue the craving hits you like a hurricane. You eat doughnuts maybe once a year but, all of a sudden, you can feel the slippery frosting beneath your fingers, you can taste the fatty, sugary goodness on your tongue and nothing has ever tasted sweeter.
Everyone gets food cravings and, when they strike, sanity flies out of the window. That’s because food cravings have nothing to do with hunger and everything to do with hedonism. Just like a small child who’ll do anything to stay up late, your adult self desires what it cannot have. Memory (of foods with a reward), opiate sensors (which sense pleasure) and hormones (your body’s mood enhancers) combine in a heady cocktail of craving that sends you dashing to the nearest grocery store for baked goods before you’ve even finished your lunch.
Food cravings are, quite literally, all in the head. The good news is, you can kick food cravings to the curb by fooling your brain into thinking it has already eaten something. Here’s how.
1. Minty Fresh
Brush your teeth, gargle with mouthwash, chew gum. Saturating your taste buds with a hit of minty freshness fools your brain into thinking you’ve devoured something sweet. Plus, when you have a fresh, clean mouth, you won’t want to mess it up with food. Great for the cravings and the cavities.
2. Serotonin Goodness
If you’re craving chocolate, chances are you need a happy boost. Chocolate stimulates the release of serotonin, the body’s natural antidepressant. Luckily you can encourage your body to produce more mood hormones, such as serotonin and dopamine, without turning to food. Exercise, even dancing around your kitchen for five minutes, should flood your system just enough hormones to keep the cravings at bay.
3. Have a Cuddle
On the subject of hormones, oxytocin is another feel-good chemical that gives our sense of well-being a much-needed boost. Studies show that oxytocin increases our sense of love, trust and generosity. A cuddle, a little light flirting, and even petting the family dog, have all been shown to release oxytocin and enhance the pleasure centers of the brain. Who needs food when you’re that loved up?
4. Water Works
Dehydrated bodies go into survival mode, which means they throw out the hunger pangs to make you imbibe just about anything in order to get more water into your system. Drink a giant glass of water, wait twenty minutes and see if the craving subsides.
Alcoholics Anonymous apply the acronym HALT to get to the root of alcohol cravings. HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired – and the latter three can easily fool your brain into thinking your body’s hungry. If you’re tired, take a power nap. If you’re angry or lonely, phone a friend for moral support. If none of these apply, check when you ate your last meal. If it was more than three hours ago, your blood sugar level is probably low. Now’s the time to eat a sensible, protein-rich meal.
6. Divert and Distract
Remember how, as a child, you thought that if your closed your eyes no one would know you were there? Well now you’re going to do the same thing, only the thing you’re hiding from is your craving. Cram your mind with distractions. Run an errand, meditate, read a book. Paint on a few camouflage stripes if it helps. We won’t judge.
7. Tighten Your Belt
Literally tightening your belt pushes all your lower belly flab into a nice doughy pouch around your middle. Unattractive? Yes. Painful? Most definitely, but that’s the idea. The spare tire is there to remind you, visually and physically, why you’re trying to lose weight in the first place. Don’t wear a tight belt for too long though. It will put strain on the valve between your gullet and your stomach, which may cause acid reflux.
8. Photo Opportunity
When a craving hits, take a selfie. Then ask yourself whether eating that pint of ice-cream will make you look any better. No, we thought not.
9. Surround Yourself With Apples
Have your doughnut if you want, just surround yourself with fruit while you’re eating it. Why? Because according to researchers from Cornell University, having healthy food on your table makes you a more conscientious eater. The fruit reminds you that healthier alternatives exist and makes you feel guilty about making the wrong decision. In other words, the apples will look at you in exactly the same way that old lady did when you beat her to the last seat on the bus. You’ll never eat a doughnut again now, will you?
10. For the Brave
Capsaicin, the compound that gives chili peppers their hot taste, sabotages the effect of the hunger-inducting hormone ghrelin, according to the European Journal of Nutrition. Better still, it raises the appetite-suppressing hormone GLP-1. So grab the hot sauce and open wide.
11. Take A Whiff of Vanilla
The sweet smell of vanilla tricks your brain into thinking you already ate some sugar.
12. Time It
An average craving lasts between 10 and 20 minutes. When a craving strikes, hit the stopwatch and time how long it lasts. The act of counting down with the timer will distract your brain from the craving. Altogether now, 10, 9, 8, 7…..
So the next time those food cravings hit try one of the above and see if it works for you.