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December 20, 2019
The holiday season is just around the corner – the time of year when we find ourselves surrounded by sweet treats and comfort foods. It becomes too easy to over-indulge, and you find yourself craving that extra slice of turkey or pumpkin pie or reaching for a few more holiday cookies.
It happens to the best of us this time of year. To avoid making the same New Year’s resolution about getting back to the gym and shedding that extra winter weight, here are some strategies to help control holiday cravings this season.
Hunger versus Craving
Before diving too deep, it’s important to understand the difference between real hunger and a craving. Below are some common ways to identify whether you’re really hungry or just experiencing a craving.
Bottom line: A craving has more to do with what your mind wants – while hunger has more to do with what your body needs.
Understand your cravings
As you probably know – a craving has little to do with actual hunger. Instead, a food craving is likely caused by biological and psychological factors. The first step to overcome cravings is to understand the cause. Once you identify the cause, it’s easier to manage your craving.
Here are a few of the most common causes of food cravings.
Your mood: Chronic stress, anxiety, and low serotonin levels contribute to cravings. For example, stress causes a spike in your cortisol level, and that can lead to a craving for sweet, sugar-packed carbs. A bad or sad mood can also mentally and physically affect cravings. Because sugar consumption or binging on your favorite comfort foods releases serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite, memory, and social behavior), your brain begins to crave these treats so it can release this “feel good” chemical again and again.
What you can do: Try testing your stress hormones to determine if your stress levels are too high, or try incorporating a supplement that helps manage stress and sugar cravings by boosting serotonin levels.* If you’re unsure what stress supplement might be best for you, then take our stress quiz. [link to it when it’s up]
You are not getting enough sleep: We get energy from two things – sleep and the food we eat. If you aren’t getting enough of the first one, that is, if you have poor sleep habits or suffer from poor sleep quality, then your body could compel you to eat more as a way to get more energy.
What you can do: Check the hormones that regulate your sleep cycle to find out if sleep is a factor for your cravings. If it is, then try to get better quality and more consistent sleep. Set a sleep schedule to wake up and go to bed at the same time each day. You could also consider using a supplement, such as melatonin, to support a regular sleep schedule.*
Nutrient deficiency: One sneaky cause of food cravings could be suboptimal nutrient or electrolyte levels in your body – such as magnesium, chromium, zinc, sodium, omega-3 fatty acids, or B vitamins. Some of these imbalances can manifest themselves as sugar cravings and others as salt cravings. An iron deficiency can lead to feeling fatigued and can cause you to crave sugary carbs as a quick way to perk up. Low iron is easily detected with a simple blood test.
What you can do: Incorporate foods high in these nutrients into your diet. Or use a highly absorbable multi-mineral supplement, a full-spectrum B-complex for stress, or an electrolyte formula. Chromium Picolinate has a highly absorbable form of chromium, which is often lacking in our modern diets. This essential mineral supports healthy blood sugar levels and helps lessen carbohydrate cravings.*
Dehydration: One common cause of food cravings is a lack of water. Because the body interprets hunger and thirst in a similar way, it can be hard to tell the difference. An easy solution is to drink a big glass of water and wait. If the craving goes away, it’s likely you were just dehydrated.
What you can do: Ensure you drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.
Some general guidelines this holiday season
Now that you have a better idea of what can cause a craving, here are some helpful habits to begin curbing and controlling them.
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