Why women crave chocolate
What causes cravings?
* Obesity: In studies, food cravings activated different brain networks in obese people than they did in normal weight people. In fact, the pathways in food cravings were similar to those associated with drug addictions.
* Sugar: Studies have found that sugar, on its own, can trigger cravings.
* Carbohydrates: Sugary foods and drinks, white bread, white rice, bagels, juice, and processed foods all cause spikes in your blood sugar. They are broken down quickly to glucose in the body, raising your blood sugar levels. But then after a short time, you experience the "crash"-when blood sugar levels drop quickly again. This cycle is unhealthy and will produce cravings for more carbs to get those blood sugar levels up again.
* Blood sugar changes: As mentioned above, if your blood sugar is stable, it's going to be easier for you to resist unhealthy foods
* Exposure in utero: What your mom ate while she was pregnant can affect your food cravings. Studies have found that expectant mothers who consume a junk-food diet can cause their children to have an increased preference for these foods later in life.
* Lack of sleep: If you don't get enough sleep, you're going to have a hard time resisting those donuts or that slice of pizza.
* Hormonal changes: You probably already suspected it was true, when you felt those cravings for chocolate during your menstrual period. Now we have scientific evidence to show that hormonal changes can cause cravings. In one study, for example, researchers found that women had a greater preference for chocolate foods during menstrual flow.
* Stress: "Stress-eating" is a real thing. Stress releases hormones that increase appetite and ramp up the motivation to eat. Studies also show that physical or emotional stress increases the desire for foods high in fat and sugar.
* Mood: Watch out if you're feeling sad, angry, down, or anxious, as these feelings are tied to cravings-in women.
Ways to outsmart your food cravings
1. Make sure you have a regular schedule for meals. If you don't eat every three-to-four hours, your blood sugar levels will crash, which will trigger food cravings. Start by eating small meals frequently.
2. Add fiber and protein to each meal. These are the magical foods that keep your metabolism burning at a consistent level and help you avoid blood sugar ups and downs, reducing cravings.
3. Get enough sleep and exercise.
4. Wait five minutes or give in a little.
5. Drink water. Sometimes we think we're hungry when we're actually thirsty! Try drinking a tall glass of ice water and see if that doesn't help.
6. Set up healthy snacks. If you prepare healthy snacks ahead of time, you'll be more likely to use them. Try things like nuts, raisins, pieces of fruit, veggie bites, yogurt, and the like. Separate them into one-use containers and have them readily available for when cravings strike.
7. Drink water. Sometimes we think we're hungry when we're actually thirsty! Try drinking a tall glass of ice water and see if that doesn't help.
8. Find other ways to soothe yourself. Remember that women tend to respond to negative feelings with food. What else comforts you? Maybe it's a hot bath, time with a friend, a walk in nature, time with a beloved pet, or getting involved in a craft you enjoy. Make a list of these options and keep it where you can see it when cravings strike. Ask yourself: Is this about food, or about how I'm feeling? If emotions are involved, try one of your other options.
9. Play a game. A study by psychologists found that people who spent at least three minutes playing Tetris on their smart phones had fewer cravings for food and other substances like alcohol than those who didn't. Angry Birds, anyone?
10. Take a sniff. Have you tried aromatherapy? Smells can affect your brain, and some smells can actually defeat cravings. One study by researchers from St. George's Hospital in London, for example, found that smelling vanilla helped curb cravings for chocolate and other sweet foods, and helped participants to lose weight. Other scents that may work include peppermint and jasmine.
11. Get enough sunshine. It improves your mood (and it supplies the vitamin D you need!). If you're not getting enough sunshine, especially in the winter months, you're likely to notice more cravings for fatty, sugary foods. Try getting out in the sun for at least 10 minutes a day, or use a lamp designed for light therapy in the darker winter months.