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Lose those cravings SHRINK YOUR WAISTLINE

If you’ve been piling on extra pounds, it may be because you have a weakness for a particular type of food. Nutrition editor Amanda Ursell shows you how to face up to your cravings and face down the addiction

DO MUFFINS CALL YOUR NAME the moment you cross the threshold of a coffee shop? Do you tuck into chocolate as soon as you feel stressed, or yearn for crisps whenever you sit down to watch your favourite TV show? Take heart – this is completely normal. Food cravings can occur multiple times a week, say experts – and 80–85% of the time we give into them.

This is due, in part, to the obesogenic environment we live in: food and drink is everywhere. We’re faced with multiple mouthwatering offerings, from supermarket aromas designed to stimulate our appetite to the TV advert breaks that send us towards a cup of tea and the cake tin.

Attempting to tame food cravings in an environment seemingly hell-bent on stimulating them every waking hour takes strong will, smart food strategies and a willingness to deal with your ‘weak’ spots. But keep reading: knowledge is power

Your weakness SUGAR: Why the urge for something sweet?

SIMPLY SEEING SUGARY FOOD can trigger a craving for some of us, and the signals are real. They include increased saliva production, the secretion of juices that relax your stomach in preparation for digestion, and insulin surges, which further increase hunger. If you give in to these initial physiological drivers to indulge, there is evidence, say scientists writing in Appetite, of the ‘addictive’ properties of sugar. Basically, once you start, the more you’ll desire it.

Sugar addicts also need to deal with ‘conditioning’. This is when we learn to link eating certain foods with specific moods, behaviours or situations.

For example, perhaps you reach for a biscuit when you feel stressed in a meeting. The next time you go into a meeting you may not be stressed, but because you had a biscuit last time, you do it again. From then on in your mind, ‘meeting’ equals ‘time to have a biscuit’, and you tuck in because you have conditioned yourself to expect one.

It’s also possible to crave sugar-rich foods simply because of a genetic tendency or through training yourself to crave sugar through repeated exposure.

WHAT FUELS YOUR DESIRE?

Identifying what’s behind your craving is an important step to finding your ‘cure’. If you fall into the ‘see sugar and want it’ category, the good news is that these physiological responses are short-lived. If you recognise when they happen and why, you can train yourself to ride out the crave-wave and ignore them.

For example, when that chocolate muffin tempts you as you queue for your latte, deliberately looking at the packets of nuts and seeds or the sandwich chiller cabinet can distract you long enough to get you over the urge to give in to the craving – and you can be safe in the knowledge that it will soon pass once you’re out of that environment.

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About Healthy Food Guide

What’s your craving? Beat that sugar, carb or fat addiction and lose weight on our nutrition editor’s smart meal plans. Get into healthy plant-based eating with guest editor Deliciously Ella’s 25-page section of recipes and advice for healthy, tasty and filling meals. And face down winter by snuggling up in the bedroom – the experts explain how sex can boost your health!