When emotional tempests strike, we all tend to reach for comfort food to chase away the clouds and give serotonin levels a leg-up. Still, if emotional eating gets out of hand, your body will be in for a few unwarranted inches, and your health will be at higher risk of serious problems, such as diabetes type 2, obesity, and hormonal imbalance But can you stop yourself from reaching for the cookie jar when you feel a mood swing coming on, and how can you efficiently shake food cravings?
The Sweet Comfort: When Stress and Snacks Collide
Stress is one of the main reasons why most people fall into the trap of food binges. Science says that the connection between stress and cravings for sugary snacks is hardwired into the nervous system. When we’re exposed to situations perceived as dangerous, the body amps up release of so-called stress hormones (epinephrine, adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine) required for survival, i.e., your body’s fight or flight response kicks in. As the stress-triggered hormonal spike withdraws, the brain signals to your belly that it’s time to find energy-dense food and replenish energy (not) expended in combat or escape. The calories consumed within stress-caused food binges will end up stored as fat, and you may soon end up with a way weightier problem on your hands than just a few extra pounds.
Rapid weight gain is a shortcut to elevated triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels, diabetes, obesity, depression, hypertension, anxiety, and a variety of other health problems. If you want to keep your figure slim and your health out of harm’s way, it may be a smart idea to stay away from the cookie jar and try non-fattening stress management techniques instead.
More than Meets the Eye: How Sugar Impacts Your Whole System
Addiction to sugar is another common trigger of emotional overeating. Regular consumption of the sweetest shade of white eventually results in brain desensitization to sugar, and you’ll end up craving more and more sugar even when your body doesn’t need it. Unfortunately, once the addiction takes root, reversing it can be extremely difficult, especially with all those tempting commercials and ads tugging at your sleeves at every step.
But the problem doesn’t stop there: as if your sugary woes weren’t enough, lack of sleep can upset the balance of hunger hormones known as ghrelin and leptin, resulting in an increased frequency and intensity of food cravings. For this reason, getting enough Zzzs is an integral part of most healthy lifestyle guidelines, and you should definitely take heed of your body’s circadian rhythm if you want to banish fat and sugar cravings out of your system.
Detox Your Life of Cravings: Healthy Snack Alternatives
When mood swings start to happen, turn to healthy stress relief methods instead of sugary snacks. Here are just a few suggestions to help set your combat against cravings on the right and steady track.
1. Shape Up, Don’t Eat Stress Up
Physical activity is a go-to for stress relief, and it’ll help you banish anxiety, depression, and a few extra pounds by a single blow. To keep workout motivation in check, you can download an accurate body measurement tracker and monitor your progress towards bulky muscles. Seeing the results of all those tough gym sessions will taste a thousand times sweeter than sugar!
2. A Gulp of Lemon Water Does It
Believe it or not, a few refreshing gulps of lemon water can help keep cravings at bay. A glass of lemon water in the morning has a similar effect as a cup of coffee, and it also suppresses cravings for sugar and fatty foods. For a neat bonus, by swapping a sweet snack for a few gulps of lemon water, you’ll also get to detoxify your liver, give the digestive system a leg-up, and improve your mood.
3. Swap Sugary Snacks for Healthy Ones
Another simple way to trick your sugar-loving brain is to use healthy homemade snacks in place of commercial candy bars. Ready-made snacks pack tons of sugar and artificial ingredients that can wreak havoc on your health and cognitive function and result in food addiction. By making your own yummy snacks, you’ll get to vent stress and do a favor to your figure, both of which will go a long way in the struggle against cravings.
4. Drink to Your Long-Term Health
You might struggle to tell thirst cravings apart from hunger cravings – take a gulp of water and let it do its magic on your tummy. Drinking eight glasses of water a day will prevent mistaken senses of hunger, and it will also promote exchange of nutrients in the cells, both of which are essential to fighting cravings and stress-induced eating sprees. For a healthy bonus, water will promote your body’s natural healing processes and keep energy levels in check.
5. Feast on Nutrients, not Sugar
Last but not least, sticking to a fixed meal schedule will help you prevent both real and false hunger. To keep food cravings at bay, structure your meals around foods rich in vital nutrients, i.e., fiber, protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats. Wholesome plant-based meals will keep your belly full for hours and reduce the intensity of cravings for unhealthy foods – and if you want to take the healthy eating formula to the top, you can even try growing veggies and herbs on your own.
Ready to wave goodbye to food cravings? Add these simple anti-craving techniques to your bag of dieting tricks, and you’ll soon see the first results of the healthy lifestyle tweaks. Bon appétit!