Recently a customer asked us how to control appetite. We are not professional in nutrition and diet by any means, but I personally have gone through the “trials and tribulations” of getting a better shape and finding a healthier eating habit. Therefore, in this article, I would like to share with you my 4 best ways to curb food cravings.
1. Figure Out Why You Crave for Food?
Craving itself is not necessarily bad, not until you find out that it causes problems. For food cravings specifically, you will find the more you eat, the even more you want.
This is a vicious cycle.
Why does one want to eat more? It can be because you are on an extreme diet, which you think will help you lose weight in no time. If you are doing this right now, please stop ASAP. It is not going to help you in the long term whatsoever. Our body is a complex system, and it doesn’t like drastic changes. Any changes will make our body fight before it adapts, and the more drastic changes you make, the longer it takes your body to adjust and adapt. If you’ve gained 10kg/22lbs over the past year, plan on losing the same amount and keep the same diet in a year. If you want to lose 10kg in 2 weeks and plan an extreme diet for that, you will end up spending these 2 weeks miserably. At the end you might be able to lose 10kg, but your body can’t adapt to this drastic change, which means it will fight back hard and you will end up eating even more than before. Finally, you will regain that 10kg, or even worse.
Your current eating habit and lifestyle can be another reason why you crave for foods. If you don’t like to cook, don’t know how, or are on a budget, you will probably end up buying ready-to-eat foods, which is what we call processed foods. I will go into more details regarding processed foods and unprocessed foods below.
It can also be because you are under a lot of stress and/or don’t have enough sleep.
Often you are not hungry, but simply because you are tired, bored or thirsty.
2. Eat Natural Unprocessed Foods
No matter if you are a sweet tooth or savory tooth, eating processed foods often means taking in excessive amounts of calories, sugar, salt and fat. While these ingredients are essential for our bodies to function properly, too much of them will lead to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Eating excessive amount of salty food also makes you thirsty and want to drink too much water afterward. Your body retains more water, which makes you look and feel swollen.
This year a report called Ultra-Processed Diets Cause Excess Calorie Intake and Weight Gain: An Inpatient Randomized Controlled Trial of Ad Libitum Food Intake[i] written by a team from NIDDK and NIH was published on Cell Metabolism. I can’t say how astonished I was to see people’s reactions online about this report, since to me it’s common sense that processed foods are unhealthy and natural foods are what we should stick to.
According to the report, even though there is no huge difference in food nutrition between ultra-processed diet and unprocessed diet, following factors of ultra-processed diet may cause excess calorie intake:
- Ultra-processed foods are easier to chew and swallow, which people tend to over-eat before the body tells them it’s enough
- More sodium in ultra-processed foods leads to fat-free mass changes, i.e. change of water retained in the body
- The appetite-suppressing hormone PYY was lower and the hunger hormone ghrelin was higher during the ultra-processed diet
So how to make delicious healthy food in batch and at low cost? Here are some recipes I think may be useful for you:
3. Plan A Treat Yourself Day
Setting small milestones helps to achieve your goal. Eating habit doesn’t change in one day, and a single treat day won’t destroy your diet plan. Go on a treat yourself day once a week is a sweet spot, be it a single meal, or all meals the whole day, eat whatever you want on this treat day. If you follow your diet plan in the rest of the week and stick to it, you will gradually find that the food once you are craving for is becoming less and less tempting. You actually start to enjoy the “real food” - the healthy diet that you are on, and the interval for your treat day gets longer and longer. Until one day you suddenly realize that you haven’t been on a treat day for a whole month
4. Start Moving
Exercise is a natural suppressant. A study[ii] has shown that exercise decreases the hunger hormone acylated ghrelin and increases the appetite-suppressing hormone PYY. On the other hand, exercise especially strength training helps you to gain muscle mass, which burns calories 24/7 in your body. Once you start exercising, your basal metabolic rate, i.e. BMR, will gradually increase to a new level, and more calories will be needed to fuel your muscles. This means that fewer calories will be left for body fat and you will get better shape.
So, there you go, eat a healthy balanced diet, do not skip meals, keep hydrated, make sure you have 7-9 hours of sleep, treat yourself once a week and last but not least, start moving. To curb food cravings is not hard as you think.
Consult a doctor if you think you or your friend have an eating disorder. Check here to see the symptoms.
[i] Ultra-Processed Diets Cause Excess Calorie Intake and Weight Gain: An Inpatient Randomized Controlled Trial of Ad Libitum Food Intake https://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131(19)30248-7