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What to do if you feel constant hunger/food cravings

Years of eating fastfood, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle can alter our metabolism and on how we deal with food that is ingested. If your meal consist mainly of carbohydrates- the simple carbs with high glycemic index, you can find yourself getting hungry within the next hour even though you have eaten a large plate of carbs.

If a person has been physically active and fit throughout his/her life, there is less tendency to suffer from this problem. Exercise works wonders to regularise our blood sugar metabolism. As you continue to be more fit till you hit a certain threshold, the more you exercise, the less tendency you have to overeat- the full meal consisting of McDonalds would not make you crave for food within 2 hours.

Due to the fact I spend more time in the office now, I find myself craving for more carbohydrates like biscuits, chocolates, or other sweet stuff within a short time after my main meals.  Most of the time, the craving is not about willpower but it is biomedical. When I examine the food that I eat- fried white rice, or rice noodles (they’re quick to be cooked and convenient), I could understand why.

When I stayed in Thailand, I lived and ate like a Thai- which my meal consistent mainly of simple carbohydrates (we are not that rich to be able to afford whole grain and all those stuff). Yet, I do not suffer from food cravings and in fact, lost weight because I was physically active throughout the day- moving around, travelling, hiking, etc.

If you are like me, spending most of the time indoors working in the office, and is probably able to squeeze in a limited amount of time (please, you must schedule some exercise time because it is important) to exercise, you may benefit from the following tips to curb food cravings:

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1. Learn to make use of Glycemic Index (GI) principles when it comes to selecting your food.  Combine in such a way that the net GI should be low to moderate.

For example, ensure that your meals consists of a healthy mix of carbohydrates with vegetables and fruits. If possible, try to take whole grain carbohydrates instead of white rice/white bread. Even wholemeal bread have relatively high GI- you have to look for whole grain, not wholemeal.

If you come from a rice eating nation, examples of combination you can use:

  • cut down rice portion and pump in more vegetables like carrots, tomatos and white cabbage to make up the volume. Have a bit of meat like fish or grilled chicken. Take fruits like apples and oranges- a huge red apple is quite filling.

Try it and see, you will be surprised that after a while, you tend crave for less food.

2. Between food with the same calories, opt for those with a lower glycemic index load. Calories counting drains the willpower after a while. The secret is to understand your body’s biochemical response to such food.

Example, if you really have no time to prepare your breakfast, between a breakfast consisting of biscuits, white bread or croissants (high GI approaching 100)— you are better off eating instant noodles instead. A packet of instant noodles that I’ve just eaten is about 340 kcal- but instant noodle, with GI of only about 50 will keep you full and you will not find yourself wanting to reach for another packet of biscuits. Eating too much of instant noodles is bad for health by the way. Other alternatives are pasta with soup or oatmeal.  By the way, the common breakfast meal of coffee and white bread/biscuits sets off hunger triggers or hypoglicemia so it is good to beware of this.

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3. Exercise, exercise

Really, it works to regularise your body’s sugar metabolism. Not only that, it uplifts your mood and help you deal with stress and other negative emotins better.

4. Watch your stress levels and emotions

When we are stressed or feeling down, there is a stronger tendency to overeat. Many tend to crave for carbs. It is difficult for you to want to eat healthy  and exercise when your emotional health is at the dumps.  When you are unhappy, you would subsciously want to self sabotage yourself – some people who constantly feel empty or unfulfilled would keep putting junk food in their body in an attempt to feel better. Unfortunately, this never works and as the person continue to pile up more calories and put on weight, a vicious cycle starts- the person feels more rotten and ends more… and put on more weight… and so on.

Identify what is getting you down- get advise from positive people- avoid mixing with negative friends because misery always love company. If you mix with pessimistic people all the time, it will rub on to you. If nothing seemed to work, consider going for counselling or therapy. It need not cost you a bomb- there are NGOs out there who provide counselling service.

In a nutshell

When we overeat, it may not be just a matter of lack of willpower.  Many people mentally beat themselves up when they overeat, taking it as another personal failure. It need not be so- there are other factors that those I’ve mention above that influnce a person’s eating habits. It’s not always your fault when you cannot lose weight- identify the obstacles and learn to deal with them. You may falter once or twice but if you stick around long enough till you see results, you will not be able to see yourself going back to ‘how you used to be’. All the best.

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