Even the smartest of us can sometimes fall prey to our mindless food cravings. Here’s how to break the cycle. Call it the flip side of plenty. While much of the world dreams of a simple square meal a day, those of us in bigger cities have cravings that have little to do with actual hunger. Post-lunch hankerings for chocolate, a random longing for Thai curry, a taste for spicy pickle. Cravings are a common challenge when one tries to manage one’s diet and weight. They’re hard to beat every time.
Temptation, craving or whatever one might call it, originates from an area of the brain which is also the spot from where drug cravings originate. This area lights up the moment it gets the food one desires. Over time, this activates the nerve pathways and the whole sequence of action and reaction becomes more automated till the response to cravings goes out of control. This is when one loses judgement and will do anything to get one’s fix.
While food cravings are nowhere as extreme as drug- or alcohol-induced ones, a major trigger to bring on a craving is stress. Other triggers include anxiety, boredom and lack of sleep.
Fight The Urge
Beating a craving is a mind game too. Know what is triggering your cravings. Then finding a healthy replacement will be easy.
Break the habit: If your routine is to start the workday with a trip to the coffee machine, break the cycle by taking another route to your desk. Like eating and reading? Reserve book time for when your tummy is already full.
Find a substitute: Munch on roasted channa, not chips, when the cricket match is on. Nibble on beetroot, carrot and cucumber sticks with a hung curd dressing when you’re reading or working on a project. Substitute plain popcorn or murmura for fried crunchy snacks. Replace salty and fatty foods with cholesterol-free roasted peanuts. For a caffeine kick, abandon cappuccino and cola for cinnamon, cardamom and ginger infusions.
Flush it out: Drinking water also takes care of food cravings. Many times we end up eating more food when our body is actually craving water. Hydrating yourself surprisingly blunts most food cravings.
I Want It Now
Common textures we crave:
Crunchy: Biting into something makes a satisfying sound. Chips companies know this.
Chewy: Wanting to chew on something is a primordial urge. When we eat in a hurry we miss the pleasure of chewing.
Cool and creamy: Why else do cafes do so well? Any smoothie or cold coffee lover knows that it’s the temperature and texture that hits the spot.
From HT Brunch, May 19
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