According to nutritionists, there are a number of crafty things that can trick the brain into thinking you’re hungry, even when your body has enough fuel.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, health experts Gabriela Peacock, founder of GP Nutrition, and Shona Wilkinson at Superfooduk.com, have come up with a list of things that could be to blame for those inexplicable cravings.
It’s easy to slip into the habit of snacking while our eyes are glued to the screen. To break the cycle of mindless munching in front of the telly, nutritionists recommend having something else on hand to keep you busy while screen gazing, such as knitting or sewing, doing crosswords, or painting your fingernails.
Mistaking thirst for hunger
Dehydration is a common reason for your body thinking it’s hungry. Aim for 6-8 large glasses of water a day, and more if you’ve been working out or if the weather’s hot.
Try keeping a bottle of water handy so you can keep track of how much you’ve had to drink throughout the day. A key sign that it’s thirst, not hunger, driving your appetite is if your urine is dark coloured.
Not getting enough sleep
Sleep deprivation can wreak havoc with your appetite control, because of its impact on the hormones leptin and ghrelin.
Leptin tells our brains when we are full, and can help to suppress appetite. When we haven’t had enough sleep, leptin doesn’t work correctly, while levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, increase.
This leads to overeating, and craving snacks that are high in sugar.
Too many refined carbs
That sandwich with white bread, bowl of cereal or plate of pasta is readily broken down into sugar, which quickly enters the bloodstream, causing blood sugar levels to skyrocket.
After blood sugar spikes, it generally drops down again rapidly, leaving us feeling hungry and craving more sugar.
For a more stable release of energy, opt for whole grains and protein, to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Carefully placed advertising
Food companies know all too well how to catch our eye and trick us into eating. TV adverts at key times during the evening, and food advertising carefully placed at bus stops or on billboards have a powerful effect, and bring on cravings.
Being aware of the effect of advertising can help, so can muting the TV when the ads come on.
As strange as it sounds, memory can trick you into feeling hungry. If you were given something sugary every time you cried as a child, you could be in a pattern of reaching for the sweet treats during times of stress as an adult.
You’ve got PMS
Researchers have found that a woman’s appetite increases during the second half of the menstrual cycle, particularly in the lead-up to menstruation.
To help manage cravings, focus on adding protein-rich foods to every meal, such as fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, and minimise your intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar.
Caffeine and alcohol can have an effect on hormone balance, so try avoiding these if you’re prone to PMS.
Source: New Zealand Herald