If you want to know how to stop hunger cravings for unhealthy foods, you’ve come to the right place! There are many different reasons we find it difficult to resist sugary treats and salty snacks. Inadequate sleep, hormonal imbalances, stress, and anxiety can seriously impact our self-control, and while we all have days where we simply cannot resist temptation, the tips in this post will help make those moments the exception rather than the rule. Keep reading for our best tips to stop hunger cravings once and for all!
7 Common Causes of Hunger Cravings
1. YOUR SENSES
Seeing or smelling food, listening to an advertisement about a delicious snack, and even hearing someone chewing on something crunchy can all cause us to crave food, even if we’re not hungry.
2. MENSTRUAL HORMONAL FLUCTUATIONS
PMS causes many women to crave foods that are sweet, starchy, and high in fat. The change in our hormones can also have a negative impact on our mood, and when we’re feeling cranky and irritable, it can be even more challenging to stop hunger cravings.
3. IMBALANCE OF HUNGER HORMONES
Stress, sleep deprivation, yo-yo dieting, etc. can all cause an imbalance of our hunger hormones:
- When our ghrelin (hunger hormone) is too high, we feel hungry
- When leptin (the hormone that tells us we’re full) is too low, we don’t feel satisfied after we eat
4. ELEVATED CORTISOL
When our body perceives it is under some sort of threat, it prompts our adrenals to release a surge of hormones including adrenaline and cortisol (aka our stress hormone). In normal circumstances, our hormones return to their normal state once the threat has passed, but when our stress remains high, it causes our cortisol levels to remain elevated. This can cause a whole host of challenges, including mood disturbances (which can cause us to crave unhealthy foods) and an inability to sleep (which negatively impacts our ghrelin and leptin levels).
When we’re stressed, anxious, sad, angry, lonely, or depressed, we tend to crave comfort foods that are high in sugar and refined carbohydrates.
6. SLEEP DEPRIVATION
Have you ever noticed it’s harder to stop hunger cravings after a terrible night of sleep? That’s because sleep deprivation causes an imbalance in our hormones. It’s increases the secretion of ghrelin, suppresses leptin levels, and also increases our cortisol levels.
We often reach for unhealthy foods purely out of habit. Whether it’s a cookie when the infamous 3 pm slump sets in, a glass of wine after dinner, or a bowl of chips while we’re watching TV late at night, many of these indulgences have simply become part of our routine.
11 Ways to Stop Hunger Cravings
1. PRIORITIZE SLEEP
When we deprive our bodies of sleep on the regular, 3 things happen:
- Our cortisol (stress hormone) increases, which can cause anxiety and depression, headaches and digestive troubles, sleep disturbances, heart disease, cognitive impairment, and weight gain.
- Our ghrelin (hunger hormone) increases, which causes us to eat larger portions and makes it harder for us to stick to our healthy eating plans.
- Our leptin levels decrease. Leptin is the hormone responsible for telling us when to stop eating, so we don’t want this to be suppressed!
If you want to know how to stop hunger cravings, make sure you’re getting at least 7-8 hours of good quality sleep each night. THIS POST has tons of tips and ideas to help!
2. PRACTICE STRESS MANAGEMENT
If you have a tendency to reach for chips, chocolate, and wine after a hard day and you want to know how to stop hunger cravings, stress management is key. As mentioned earlier, chronic stress can cause high levels of cortisol – the hormone responsible for controlling our blood sugar levels, regulating our metabolism, and reducing inflammation in the body. Elevated cortisol levels due to chronic stress can lead to a whole host of issues including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and weight gain.
CLICK HERE to read more about cortisol, including tips on how to lower cortisol levels naturally.
3. EXERCISE REGULARLY
If you’re looking for tips to stop hunger cravings, adding exercise into your daily routine may sound counterintuitive. We tend to associate exercise with an increased appetite, and while this tends to be true of more vigorous activities like running, cycling, and HIIT workouts, research suggests that regular exercise can actually decrease our hunger hormones and make us feel full.
4. DRINK MORE WATER
We all know H2O does the body good. From keeping us hydrated so we feel energized, to flushing out toxins and improving our complexion, to boosting our immune systems, water is where it’s at, but what few people realize is that it’s also a fabulous tool for weight loss. And it’s free! Filling your stomach with water will cause your brain to receive signals that you are full, making this a good quick fix if you need to stop hunger cravings in a pinch. We also tend to feel hungry when we’re dehydrated, so reaching for a glass of water when hunger strikes is a great strategy.
5. AVOID LIQUID MEALS
While there are plenty of nutrient-dense smoothies you can whip up for breakfast or a late afternoon snack, drinking your meals isn’t the best strategy for those who struggle with food cravings. While liquid meals may initially fill your stomach, many people find they don’t keep them feeling satiated for long. Eating a meal that requires you to chew and that takes longer to eat will keep you feeling satisfied for a longer period of time, making it easier to stop hunger cravings from wreaking havoc on your healthy eating goals.
6. FILL UP ON PROTEIN & FIBER
Another easy way to stop hunger cravings is to ensure your meals and snacks are high in both protein and fiber.
- Protein reduces hunger, helps curb cravings, and also protects muscle mass, which is important if you want to boost your metabolism. Eggs, lean meats, and tofu help you feel full and satisfied, making you less likely to snack on unhealthy foods between meals.
- Fiber helps with digestive health, disease prevention, and weight control. High fiber foods help you feel full for longer while also promoting regular bowel movements. You should be eating at least 25 grams of fiber a day to reap the benefits. To increase your fiber intake, eat foods such as lentils, black beans, peas, broccoli, raspberries, pears, and oatmeal.
7. AVOID ALCOHOL
While a glass (or 2) of wine may help you relax and destress at the end of a tough day, alcohol can be detrimental to your weight loss goals. It interferes with sleep and can trigger or worsen feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression, all of which can have a negative impact on your waistline. Most alcoholic beverages are high in calories, and many people find it harder to abstain from mindless snacking and eating after a couple of drinks, which can hinder your weight loss goals as well. If you’re trying to stop hunger cravings, try removing alcohol from your diet and see if it makes a difference.
8. DISTRACT YOURSELF
A great way to stop hunger cravings is to find a way to distract yourself. The trick is to find an activity that doesn’t perpetuate your desire to eat! Many people find it hard not to give into food cravings when they are watching TV, so finding other activities is key. Going for a walk, calling a friend, organizing a closet, folding laundry, or enjoying a hobby are all great ways to get your mind off of food.
9. GIVE MINDFUL EATING A TRY
Mindful eating – the practice of listening to your hunger cues, eating slowly and without distraction, engaging your senses in relation to the foods you’re eating, and eating only until you’re full – can be extremely effective in keeping food consumption in check. It allows you to enjoy the taste and texture of the foods you’re consuming, teaches you to recognize hunger cues, and allows for greater control over what and how much you eat.
10. REPLACE ONE TASTE WITH ANOTHER
If you absolutely MUST have a taste of whatever foods you’re craving, limit yourself to a few bites and then replace the taste with something else so you don’t overdo it. For example, if you simply can’t stop thinking about that jar of Nutella that’s in your fridge and decide to give in to temptation and have a taste, follow it up with a bite of cheese, a cup of coffee, or a piece of gum so your craving has been satisfied and the taste has been removed from your mouth, making you less likely to eat the rest of the jar.
11. SET A TIMER
If you are an emotional eater and/or reach for unhealthy snacks purely out of habit, this last tip might help. When you start to crave a snack or sweet treat, set a timer for 30 minutes. Drink a glass of water to ensure you are properly hydrated, and then do something else. If you still feel hungry when the timer goes off, make yourself a healthy snack. If the feeling has passed, congratulations! You have successfully found a way to stop hunger cravings!!!
I hope these tips to stop hunger cravings help you resist temptation and stick with your health eating goals more often than not!