Food cravings are hard to control, but there are a few things you can do to stop them or make them more manageable.
After your surgery, you will have to learn how to cope with these cravings in order to get optimal weight-loss results. It is OK to give in to craving once in a while, but you need to be very careful to not make it a habit. This is why initially our bariatric nutritionist recommends not giving in to them.
Experts say that a craving lasts only about 3 to 5 minutes. But your brain can play tricks on you longer than that and have you feeling unsatisfied until you get what you are craving.
There are a couple of theories as to what causes a craving:
- It may be a hormone imbalance, like leptin and serotonin.
- Cravings are also linked to emotions. This is when working with a bariatric psychologist comes in handy. Instead of looking for comfort through food, you express your emotions and handle them in an adequate way.
- The idea that you are lacking nutrients and that is why you’re craving something is also a theory, in which case, you can swap your craving for a healthier choice full of that nutrient you are lacking. The theory says you will then become satiated and the craving will go away.
There are also 2 types of cravings: selective, which is a craving for specific food and non-selective, which is craving whatever.
For selective cravings, the nutrient lacking theory may be the reason and choosing better food options works here.
For non-selective cravings, hormone imbalance and emotions may be the reason behind them. For this kind of craving, we suggest the following tricks.
- Handling stress: A study showed that women under stress are more prone to having cravings for sweets. Stress releases a hormone called cortisol, and it is linked to promoting belly fat. So, double the weight-gain: Not only do you gain weight by eating more of what you are craving, but also naturally by producing cortisol if you’re under stress. Coping with stress involves dealing with emotions, therefore, once again your best way of doing this is having a safe place to express yourself and doing it with a professional.
- Drinking more water: Thirst is very often confused with hunger. When experiencing a craving, drink water first and notice how you are feeling. Often times the craving will not be there any longer.
- Protein in every meal: Eating enough protein during the day, which is proven in studies, will reduce your overall cravings, and especially night-time cravings by 50% or more.
- Sleep: a 2013 study found that sleeping enough has an important impact on your body. Hormones became more stable with regular sleeping hours and this led to weight-loss.
- Regular meals: Eating too little can lead to cravings for processed food and large portions, so having regular meals with the portions recommended by your surgeon will also keep you feeling satiated, and less prone to having cravings.
Swapping cravings for better, healthier options
- Potato chips: Go for nuts and cashews. They have a higher amount of protein and healthy fat (but be careful with the amount because they are high in calories) or choose popcorn to get rid of the salty craving.
- Chocolate: It may be magnesium what you’re body is requesting so try almonds or go for dark chocolate with 70% cacao at least.
- Candy or pastries: Fruit is your best choice. You can keep raisins and prunes handy when you are craving for something sweet.
- Soda: Drink sparkling water with a splash of orange juice or lime.
If your cravings come at nighttime, the following foods and drinks are likely to reduce them:
Fruit salad with low-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt, bananas, herbal tea, warm milk (promotes serotonin which will help you sleep).
Remember if you indulge in the habit of satisfying your cravings, it takes at least 28 days to get rid of a habit, so practice the recommendations every day.