Outsmart your cravings

Why is it that sometimes you can be confronted with the dessert table at a wedding but you remain the poster-child of abstention, while at another time all you can think about is the sugary, salty or fatty indulgence calling your name? 
Having cravings is not a weakness ' it's completely natural and affects everyone. The trick is to avoid fighting them ' we all know the feeling of craving a piece of chocolate, denying ourselves and then suddenly finding ourselves halfway through a slab. Once we acknowledge them and understand where they are coming from, we can approach them with natural interventions that complement our health goals.       Understanding cravings Cravings are a combination of science and sociological cues. Some scientists believe our desire for high-calorie treats traces back to our early ancestors who looked for food high in fat and calories to sustain themselves until the next meal came around. They maintain our modern-day brains reinforce this but the problem is, we often seek out the more convenient and less healthy food.  Food is tied up in our emotions and can help alleviate moods like fear, stress, loneliness, anger, sadness, and boredom because it causes the brain to release powerful chemicals like endorphins, which make us feel pleasure, and dopamine, which can motivate us to keep eating. But moods and environmental situations can also become associated with food and trigger a desire. Feeling down and automatically looking for something in the fridge to pick you up is similar to the habit of craving something sweet every night after dinner. In both instances you obsess until you've satisfied the craving.   PRACTICAL TIPS TO MANAGING CRAVINGS EAT REGULARLY:  Skipping meals or eating irregularly depletes your energy levels often resulting in a desire for starchy or sugary foods. To help maintain your blood sugar levels and prevent impulse eating make sure you eat every three to five hours. Choose protein, fiber-rich foods like whole grains and produce.  OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND:  If you know you have a weakness for something try removing temptation from your daily routine. Ban it from your house and avoid the supermarket aisles where you know it's stocked.  GO COLD TURKEY:  Cutting out all simple sugars works for some people. While the initial 48 to 72 hours can be tough, sugar cravings should diminish within a few days. Ultimately you can train your taste buds to be satisfied with less. TURN TO H20:  The symptoms of hunger and cravings - low energy, reduced cognitive function and poor mood - are similar to those of being dehydrated. Next time you're craving an afternoon snack, drink a glass of water and wait ten minutes.  MINDFUL TREATING:  When rewarding yourself with a treat cut out any distractions so you can truly savor what you're eating. The satisfaction will in turn help you control mindless snacking.  BREATHE:  Try a quick breathing exercise when willpower wanes. Close your eyes and cut out thoughts and external pressure by watching your breath move in and out. When your breathing pattern feels calmer, imagine exhaling toxins and negative thoughts with every out-breath. On each in-breath imagine your body being energized by cleansing oxygen that brings with it a new lease of life. FEEL-GOOD ALTERNATIVES: Explore non-edible ways to release pent-up energy and create balance in your life. Relieve stress with yoga, a sauna, a hobby such as beading or journaling, or a walk. Treat yourself to a herbal bath, a bunch of flowers and candles or a therapeutic massage. High intensity activity such as running, dancing or riding your bike does wonder for the blues.  AROMATHERAPY:  Put two drops of essential oil of grapefruit on a handkerchief. Inhale when you have a sugar craving.  PRACTISE VISUALIZATION:  When reaching for that snack, imagine your skin becoming more sallow and fleshy and your brain finding it harder to make connections. Then picture a shower of tropical rain pounding down on your scalp, washing away these pictures. Sense a feeling of cleanness and vibrancy inside and out. Or inspire yourself to reach your healthy eating goal by saving a picture on your phone or creating an inspirational board on Pinterest. Take a look at it whenever a craving hits and ask yourself whether giving into your craving will bring you any closer to your goals.  TASTY TRICKS FOR CRAVINGS  Use these clever and delicious ways to satisfy your body.   CHOOSE QUALITY OVER QUANTITY: If chocolate is your treat, choose a perfect dark chocolate truffle or 70 percent or more cocoa solids rather than a king-sized, sugar-laden chocolate bar. Then savour every bite.  GIVE IN A LITTLE '  HEALTHY ALTERNATIVES:  Eat a bit of what you're craving but look for healthier alternatives like a date rather than a piece of chocolate, a gluten-free pizza base with extra vegetables and anti-oxidant rich tomato sauce instead of a normal pizza with fatty, processed meats, or vegan ice-cream sweetened by natural fruit and made creamy with frozen banana.  COMBINE FOODS:  If the idea of having just one biscuit seems impossible combine the naughty treat with healthy food. For example, dip a banana in melted chocolate or mix some almonds with cocoa nibs.  REACH FOR FRUIT:  Have fruit or dried fruit on hand for when sugar cravings hit. You'll get fibre and nutrients along with some sweetness. SNACK ATTACK:  Foods like air-popped popcorn, nuts and seeds are a healthier alternative for noshing.  SPICE AND ALL THINGS NICE:  Just half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day, and a few cloves are very effective at normalising blood sugar levels and reducing food cravings. Add cinnamon to warm drinks, and cloves to salads, grains, vegetables and poultry.  If nothing helps and you do give in, forgive yourself. If you're already eating a well-balanced diet of fruit, vegetables and protein, and drinking lots of water, then the occasional indulgence is no cause for concern.

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