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June 27, 2012, 12:48 pm Yahoo!7
The secret to losing weight fast is how to beat those naughty cravings. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
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Ever feel like you have no control over your cravings? That certain foods really are too good to resist? There are scientific reasons as to why you can’t stop scoffing that bowl of chips or block of chocolate, but don’t despair! Once you understand what causes your cravings, you can adopt strategies to overcome them.
Here’s the real shocker – It turns out that giving in to cravings may change your brain, according to the latest research. That’s because as food has become more processed, the substances we love most – sugar, fat and salt – have been more potently combined. Sugar and fat don’t come packaged together naturally. Fruit may contain a lot of sugar but no fat, while a steak will give you fat but not much sugar. In contrast, processed foods offer all three of these ingredients plus caffeine, flavour enhancers and sweeteners. This amps up your brain’s response, leading to more cravings.
Also, the sugar, salt and fat used in processed foods are more intense than their natural equivalents. Highly refined sugar hits the bloodstream faster than the sugar in unrefined wholefoods, so the resulting endorphin high is increased and kicks in almost immediately. But it’s hard to sustain, prompting you to eat more. Case in point: A large banana has about the same amount of sugar (17 grams) as a chocolate-glazed doughnut. You can eat a bunch of doughnuts, but you’d never eat a bunch of bananas.
Wholefoods are also a lot more work to eat – you must chew a carrot for a while before you can swallow it. But that’s not the case with many processed foods, which have become so easy to eat that we barely have to chew them. And research has shown that we digest unhealthy foods faster because they contain little fibre and protein, and a lot of sugar and fat.Related links:
Our desire for high-kilojoule treats can be traced back to our early ancestors. When food was scarce, our ancient predecessors craved the nutrients they needed to sustain themselves. Foods high in fat and kilojoules were perfect, providing extra fuel for the body to store. Our love of sweet things can also be traced back. When foraging for berries, it was widely accepted that the sweet ones were generally safer to eat than the sour ones.
As a result, our brains now reinforce and reward this way of eating. They release powerful chemicals, like endorphins, which make us feel pleasure, and dopamine, which can motivate us to keep munching. And it appears that we get the biggest endorphin rush from decadent things, such as biscuits and hot chips. (Like you needed to be told that!)
Women are especially vulnerable to cravings. In a study, scientists used scans to look at the brain activity of people as they were exposed to the sight, smell and taste of foods. Women had a harder time ignoring their cravings than men did, and they expressed a greater initial desire for the foods. The theory is that, biologically speaking, food is more important to women than men because women need to eat for two in order to successfully reproduce. While these stronger urges were once important to ensure survival, now they’ve become a genetic disadvantage.
Hormones also appears to play a role. About half of women who regularly crave chocolate do so mainly at the start of their period. And giving into the craving makes it harder to beat next time. Eating chocolate when you have PMS-related mood swings associates those swings with chocolate, and can trigger that desire every months.
1. Take control. Develop strategies for the triggers you can’t avoid. If someone brings cupcakes to work, cut one in half and eat that piece. Stick to a schedule. Eat only at set meal and snack times – every four hours – to stop mindless grazing.
2. Get satisfaction. Include indulgences a few times a week, but keep portions reasonable. Packing a few biscuits to satisfy your need for something sweet is better than depriving yourself until you rebel and hit the snack machine.
3. Cut back on coffee. Too much caffeine can lead to a sugar craving, because you’ll need a pick-me-up a few hours later. Drink no more than two cups a day and pair them with protein, such as almonds, to keep your energy level steady.
4. Give your meal a happy ending. Come up with an ‘enough’ signal that lets you know when your meal is over. A cup of herbal tea is ideal.
- Wait for about 10 minutes. If you still want the food, eat a little, then wait again for 10 minutes. Ask yourself if it will satisfy you, or if you’d rather have, say, a homemade brownie later.
- Eat something smarter. When junk food catches your eye, figure out a satisfying, nutrient-rich option you can have instead. Non-fat Greek-style yoghurt with a few roasted peanuts and a drizzle of honey is a healthy alternative to a bowl of ice-cream with topping.
- Have a little good with the bad. If you want chips but are watching your weight, portion out a handful of them with a healthy salsa and a few vegies. You’ll end up eating fewer chips but still feel full.Start your day with eggs, they will keep you full for longer.
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