You can last through the mid-afternoon, and all of a sudden, 3PM rolls around and you can’t stop thinking about those cupcakes your co-worker brought in or that leftover pasta in the fridge. And you didn’t even think you were hungry! Yep, it can happen to the best of us: mindless eating when we aren’t even all that hungry. But there are ways to combat food cravings and get your diet on track. Read on for some of them.
1. Is It Just Stress?
Stress has a major influence on our appetites—but the influence it has depends on the person. Stress leads some people to eat more, and others to eat less. But for many of us, well, we fall in the former category. If you can identify that it’s stress, not hunger, that is behind your appetite, though, you’re in luck.
When you have a craving, step back and think about it. Are you really just stressed and using food to cope with it, or are you actually hungry? If you suspect that stress is the culprit, take a few minutes to do some meditation or take a walk before diving into that bag of chips.
2. Drink More Water
People often confuse thirst with hunger, and many people crave salty snacks when what they really need is a nice, tall glass of water. Instead of reaching for a snack, try drinking some water and then, if you’re still feeling hungry, reaching for something to snack on.
3. Are You Just Tired?
Can’t stop thinking about that leftover pizza in the fridge? Maybe all you really need is a nap. Yep, it’s common for people to use food as a band-aid when all they really need is a better night’s sleep. When you sleep, the hunger-related hormones in your body go haywire, leading you to feel more hungry (or, for some of us, less) than usual.
4. Brush Your Teeth
Prone to eating when you’re bored? Don’t head to the kitchen, head to the bathroom! Brushing your teeth is a great way to put off needless snacking. And, hey, your dentist will thank you for it!
5. Eat Better All the Time
We all need to eat—there’s no way around that! But when eating becomes over-eating, then that’s a problem. The key to beating over-eating, then, is to eat the right foods all the time. Packing your diet with filling foods, protein and complex carbs in particular, keeps your blood sugar more constant, and, yes, help stave off food cravings.
6. Plan a Splurge
One way to combat impulsive cravings? Have a normally off-limits meal to look forward to. After all, you don’t have to eat healthy 100 percent of the time. Once a week, perhaps, plan a truly decadent meal that you can pine over for the rest of the week. Hey, it beats giving into impulses every time they come up!
7. Keep It Out
If you can’t be trusted to eat just one piece of chocolate, don’t have it in the house! It’s as simple as that. If you know you can’t trust yourself at the grocery store, make sure to eat before you make the trip. Avoid walking past that ice cream parlor if you don’t think you can resist.
8. Distract Yourself
If you’re feeling a craving coming on, distract yourself. Go for a walk, call a friend, read a book, anything to get your mind off of it. Spend at least 5 minutes doing something else before reaching for a snack. Sometimes, that little distraction can make those hunger pangs go away.